Saturday, June 23, 2012

Scotsmen Prefer Blondes: A Muses of Mayfair Novel by Sara Ramsey

Scotsmen Prefer Blondes: A Muses of Mayfair Novel. Sara Ramsey.  Published by Sara Ramsey. April 2012.  326 pages paperback or e-book.  ISBN #: 9781938312014.

Miss Prudence Etchingham must marry soon or she and her mother, the tough Lady Harcastle, will be penniless and perhaps Prudence will need to seek work as a governess. But she's as nervous as a twit and not so comforted by her best friend, Lady Amelia Staunton, as they are introduced to fellow diners before a meal that will supposedly begin the match that will save Prudence's favorless future.  Imagine everyone's discomfort when Prudence is unable to emit any response that evening than what is tantamount to a "squeak" at every comment and question.  Amelia, on the other hand, gasps at her first sight of Laird Malcolm McCabe, a man who looks every inch a duplicate of his sexy, Scottish warrior ancestor.  And Malcolm as well feels the lightning strike as well!

Amelia has a raging, inner battle.  Faithful to her friend's needs, she attempts to rebuff Malcolm's advances and shift his attention to Prudence.  But Malcolm was so turned off to that initial meeting that he has no intention of wedding Prudence, although he too has pressing needs which he needs to fulfill if his own future destiny in Parliament is to bear lucrative results!  He experiences consternation when after writing to his friend, Ferguson, he receives a response about the possibility of a match with Amelia, "Do  not marry the harpy!"

The attraction between Amelia and Malcolm escalates into a scene when both are confronted in a serious embrace by Amelia's brother and Prudence.  You can't even imagine the results of this stunning scene, however Malcolm is a very stubborn and passionate man even though he doesn't realize how besotted he is over Amelia!

Malcolm is presented as an interesting character who deeply cares for his Scottish tenants and is upset enough to be determined to help them in their growing, dire financial straits.  A devastating fire will show his true mettle with the second passion he most definitely possesses!

Amelia, by the way, has her own deep, dark secret that eventually might be exposed with life-threatening repercussions.  It's worth the wait to see where her desire to be great in one area yields results that move her beyond her own self-regard and anonymity! 

Scotsmen Prefer Blondes is an enjoyable read because of the ease that Sara Ramsey poses the simple yet complexly interlaced story conflicts.  Romance scenes are titillating and steamy hot along with the occasional spats between the hero and heroine.  Very nicely done, Ms. Ramsey!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Sacrifice Game by Brian D'Amato

The Sacrifice Game. Brian D'Amato. Dutton: A Division of Penguin USA Group. 2012. 672 pages hardback. ISBN #: 9780525952411.

When Jed was a small boy, as depicted in D'Amato's first novel (In The Courts of the Sun) in this planned trilogy, his mother taught him a game that turned out to be a Mayan divination ritual, a game in which one could predict the future and even time-travel.  Now in this second novel, it turns out there are two Jed characters, one who is living in the Mayan civilization in the year 664 and the other who is living in 21st Century America.  The first puzzle the reader finds in this newer novel is understanding how this divided person can be so different.  For with the help of education and the financial backing of a research institution, Jed has learned so much more about this "Sacrifice Game." He and others have refined it so that the world can truly understand the Mayan civilization that is so often misunderstood by our century's citizens, too often confused with other parallel civilizations existing during and after the time of the Mayans.  But what Jed learns in that civilization is so decadent, cruel, and so much more that is devastating to him that the Jed living in our world has decided he will fulfill the Mayan calendar prediction of ending the world in December of 2012!!!

The style of this sci-fi, gaming novel is unique - not quite stream of consciousness but a type of random and linear writing that takes us into the mind, heart, and even body of Jed and others with whom he interacts.  Allusions to history, mythology, current events, religion, power-mongering, and so much more fill these pages so that if one is attentive one gets a fascinating education in the connection between supposedly unrelated events and personalities.  We also see the baser aspects of humanity in the way it seeks to destroy anyone who gets in the way of its motives and plans - from the leaders of the Mayan society who practice cannibalism, suicide, and murder without batting an eye and so much more for the reader to explore.  It's not much different in American a la 2012.

The central conflict is a battle between Jed who has figured out a way to make every living human vanish in a second, even less, so fast indeed that they won't realize it happened and those who earlier supported Jed and his skills and who discover his intentions.  They desperately begin to attempt to stop him from carrying out his "righteous" task, one he believes he is inspired to by the sacrifice game.  His alter-ego, on the other hand, in Mayan society has found a way to save those people from the extinction we know actually occurred.  There's quite a bit of craziness like having chili enemas or taking mind-altering drugs (that helps one go "deeper" in the game), etc., etc.

This novel will stretch your imagination and focus beyond where it's been; it's like a mind-altering drug in itself in a way.  It will, however, leave readers thinking about the role of humans never learning from history or culture and the underlying tension between destruction and salvation that is constantly going on despite the oblivious lack of attention of most of us.  It's a read you definitely won't forget.  If you love classic and non-classic sci-fi and relish an "offbeat," novel approach to stories, this is your book.  Amazing job, Brian D'Amato.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wendy Wax Q&A About Ocean Beach: A Novel

Wendy Wax on OCEAN BEACH, South Beach and Miami...

Wendy, welcome.  It’s nice to have you here today to talk about your new book.  My first question is about the setting.  OCEAN BEACH takes us to Miami’s South Beach. How did you choose South Beach?
There are so many reasons—and I know I’ve already forgotten some of them.  I started out compiling a list of places known for their historic architecture and that have a history of valuing and rescuing buildings and homes. Then I began focusing on those that I’d been to at least once. When I started reminiscing about Miami a light bulb went off.  It seemed perfect for Ocean Beach in so many ways, not just physically—South Beach is famed for its Art Deco heritage—but because it was a natural when it came to so many of the plot points I had in mind. (Not to mention that Avery, who I wanted to head up this renovation, has been in love with all things Art Deco since childhood.) I headed south and fell for both Miami and a house in South Beach that is a wonderful example of the Art Deco Streamline Moderne style. I knew the minute I saw it that Maddie, Avery and Nicole were going to love it, too. 

Did you model the house in the book after the one you saw?  Why is it called The Millicent?
                I was definitely inspired by the house I saw, which, coincidentally, was just about to be renovated. But there are so many terrific examples of Art Deco and the later Streamline style, and enough buildings and homes designed by architect Henry Hohauser, whose work I especially admire, that The Millicent ended up being an aggregate of many design details that appealed to me.  The Ocean Beach Photo Album I’ve posted on Facebook shares some of those—a “porthole” mirror, a fireplace, some of the damage. Oh, and I’ve credited my fictional house to Henry Hohauser, who remains my current architect crush.
                The Millicent is owned by Max Golden.  He and his late wife Millie (Millicent) are based upon the many famed comedy teams whose careers spanned Vaudeville, radio, nightclubs, television and film.  They’re a bit à la Burns and Allen—at least I think of them that way.  When they bought the house in the forties, it was named in honor of the woman Max adored.

You mentioned reminiscing about Miami.  When were you there?
                I visited often as a child.  It’s where I swam in a salt water pool for the first time. I remember that once we stayed at the Fontainebleau. I was terribly impressed.  We went to Wolfie’s for breakfast and my dad used to bring bagels home to St. Pete Beach whenever his travels took him through Miami.  My cousins had a well-known restaurant on Collins Avenue, just south of Wolfies.  Later on my brother got married at the Diplomat Country Club in Miami.  And I worked on my first feature film there, Night in Heaven.

Did you take your characters to any of these places?
                No, but they did see plenty of South Beach.  Nicole spots megastars Daniel Deranian (father to single parent Kyra’s baby Dustin) and his wife Tonja Kay by the pool at The Delano while meeting the client she hopes will revitalize her high-end matchmaking career. Avery and Chase escape to The Clevelander Hotel. Nicole and Maddie breakfast at Big Pink. Maddie, Nicole and Avery crash Daniel Deranian’s party at The Setai Hotel to “rescue” Kyra, but overdo the champagne instead. Everybody likes Ted’s Hideaway, a small neighborhood bar next door to Big Pink, as well as the view of the jetty and Government Cut from the beach where Nicole, Avery, Maddie, Kyra and Deirdre go to speak frankly, away from the cameras filming their reality show Do Over.  The show is supposed to be focused on the renovation of The Millicent, but last minute instructions from the network has it intruding into every aspect of their somewhat rocky lives. 
            Now that I think about it, they really get around.

Maddie, Nicole and Avery first met in your novel Ten Beach Road.  Do you need to have read that novel to enjoy Ocean Beach?
                I don’t think so.  I worked hard to make sure Ocean Beach shared any of the back story pertinent to Do Over and the women’s friendship and current circumstances, and I tried to do it without being intrusive.  I’m looking forward to hearing what others think and, fingers-crossed, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  At the same time, I’m really excited about those who have already read Ten Beach Road getting a chance to return to the characters’ lives in Ocean Beach.  So many people got in touch asking for more of Maddie, Nicole and Avery’s story.  So, here it is—and I hope they enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it. 

Where can we find out more about Ocean Beach, Ten Beach Road and what you’re up to?
                I’ve posted a lot of information on my web site, including excerpts of both books. My Facebook page has a
second excerpt from Ocean Beach, plus photos showing research, inspiration and a look at Miami’s past.  Both sites list the dates and locations for appearances and signings—and I’m always happy to meet readers and talk books.
                Please check it out at and @Wendy_Wax.

Thanks for joining us, Wendy.
                Thanks for having me.  I appreciate the chance to share news and tidbits about Ocean Beach.  I really look
forward to hearing from readers who want to get in touch to share their thoughts and opinions or to simply say hello. Happy summer!
OCEAN BEACH by Wendy Wax
Berkley Books/Trade Paperback/Original/Fiction
On Sale June 26, 2012/$15.00 ($16.00 Canada)
0-425-24541-1 978-0-425-24541-5
Includes the Readers Guide

Contact:    Joan Schulhafer, Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting,                         , 973-338-7428
   Erin Galloway, Berkley/NAL,, 212-366-2153

Ocean Beach: A Novel by Wendy Wax

Ocean Beach: A Novel. Wendy Wax. Berkley Trade Paperback. June 26, 2012. 448 pages. ISBN #: 9780425245415.

Madeline, Avery, Nicole, Deirdre, and Chase are back from their stint in the novel, Ten Beach Road, with some kinks solved and some still lurking as they embark on another "Do-Over" of a dilapidated home that is an architectural treasure!  But you wouldn't know it to read the descriptions of what these fearful but also feisty characters see, hear, smell, and touch on their first exploration of their latest project in South Miami, Florida.  Here's the difference - they are now part of a TV program in which their redo job is to be followed like a reality show.  But don't realize that all of their lives are to be included this "reality" show.  That's their first major shock!

This is the home of Max, a former comedian, who has recently lost Millie, the love of his life.  He's still got plenty of pizazz but it's laced with lack of energy and admission of total lack of skills to keep this gorgeous "nautical" home in the prime condition it deserves.  Now a bit of zest comes back into his life as he enjoys the presence of these diverse ladies and of course Baby Dustin.  

All is not bliss.  There's a serious lack of money for this project that not even the TV pay can help.  Then there are the personal problems plaguing their daily progress.  Maddie's husband wants her to stay home and be the homemaker while he "earns the bread;" Avery and Deirdre are still on rocky road territory with the latter wanting to make up for years of no mothering and the former not buying the efforts one bit.  Nicole wants to resurrect her matchmaking business, ruined by her reputation as the wife of a Ponzi-scheming criminal.  Avery and Chase are a hot number now but there are some issues there as well.  At first one might think this is just a rehash of the last novel, but it's NOT so!  For there are secrets lurking that turn this summer (all-year round really) read into a romantic mystery that's even more thrilling than the last novel.

Max and Millie lived with a heart-breaking secret that just might fit into the "do-over" plans with some help from other new characters in this terrific story.  The cameramen learn to be a bit wiser about what they film and don't film after some nasty and also funny scenes. To tell more would be a spoiler that would deprive you of hours of pleasure!

Ocean Beach: A Novel is plainly and imply a great and must read!!!  Wendy Wax is one very talented writer who knows how to craft a great story with complex characters, a great plot, and plug in just enough steamy romance to satisfy everyone.  Finely done!!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile by C. W. Gortner

The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile. C. W. Gortner. Random House Publishing Group.  June 2012.  400 pp. ISBN #: 978034552396.

Isabella's initial exposure to politics comes just before the demise of her father, a man who will die from grief after his closest adviser is murdered.  At least that is what Isabella's furious mother believes.  Standing by her father's deathbed, Isabella is startled to recognize the look of greed on her half-brother Enrique's face, a look that clearly presages the kind of King he will become.  For The Queens's Vow is about Isabella's newly found fortitude which will be sorely tested first by her brother, advised by the evil Marquis of Villena, and then as the novel progresses by numerous other so-called "advisers."  Sometimes readers may forget that Kings and Queens are human beings with strengths and fragile aspects of personality that shape history for years, if not centuries.  We are reminded in this fiction account that women were not expected to be successful rulers, being deemed less possessed of intelligence, capabilities, and skills necessary to accomplish such a daunting task.  Isabella is presented as a woman ready to rule wisely and fairly, a woman who learns from her own mistakes.

Before that comes to pass, however, King Enrique seems incapable of fathering an heir while his wife manages to conceive a beautiful girl, much to the delight of court and public gossipers. That wouldn't matter much to Isabella except that the Queen insists her daughter is the heir to the throne and does everything in her power to guarantee that neither Alfonso (Isabella's other brother) nor Isabella will ever rule Castile.   Queen Juana's road to perdition makes for tense and riveting reading, supplemented by the increasing notorious influence of the King's own lover. 

Isabella's world dramatically alters after she meets Prince Ferdinand of Aragon; they are magnetically connected immediately with a tenderness and passion totally unexpected in the swirls of Court dissension and machinations.  Their brief meeting marks the beginning of an eventual marriage of mind and heart that will have its highs and lows but more notably will be marked by the manner in which they treat each other, with respect and equality hardly seen in that particular country or century.  Their union continues with the rise of military conflicts and the Church's insistence that an Inquisition be conducted to root out Jewish conversos heretics (and more as Isabella suspects) that is earning Spain divine disfavor.  These are just a few of the contentious problems that the couple must deal with as they begin to raise a family and gird Spain for prosperity in years to come!

The Queen's Vow is finely researched and even more finely written!  We come to know Isabella intimately in mind, heart, and body as she lives through a tumultuous time, her intense longing to be the determiner of her own unique destiny!  Many have been Queens but few manifest the regal qualities that truly define female leaders like this magnificent "Majestad."  Phenomenal accomplishment, C. W. Gortner - this novel deserves the highest acclaim!