Hi friends!! I’m very happy to welcome back Manda Collins, who is absolutely delightful. It also pleases me because Manda thinks I’m more sweet than tart. I’ve got her hoodwinked. 😉 Her newest release Duke with Benefits will be out next week! June 27th! The day before by birthday. So we’ve got an exclusive excerpt to whet your appetites. 😀 AND a giveaway from Manda too! See? I told you she’s wonderful! 😀
LADY + DUKE = TRUE LOVE?
Lady Daphne Forsyth is a brilliant mathematician with a burning passion for puzzles. When she learns that the library belonging to her benefactress houses the legendary Cameron Cipher—an encrypted message that, once solved, holds the key to great riches—Daphne is on the case. Unfortunately, her race to unlock the cipher’s code is continually thwarted by a deliciously handsome distraction she hadn’t counted on. . .and cannot resist.
Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, is curious as to why Daphne is spending so much time snooping around his aunt’s bookshelves. He’s even more intrigued by her bold yet calculating manner: She is unapologetic about her secret quest. . .and the fiery attraction that develops between them both. But how can they concentrate on solving a perplexing enigma once the prospect of true love enters the equation?
Hi friends! First of all, I have to say this is a really powerful post. It’s definitely one of my favorites this year. I really hope you’ll discuss with us and share your thoughts at the end. As you see, we’ve got Manda Collins visiting with us today. Really there’s nothing better I can say other than – read on!
First of all, thanks so much to Limecello for inviting me to visit ALBTALBS today! I love what she’s been doing to spotlight diversity in Romancelandia and it’s a pleasure to be here.
Hello my darlings! Can you believe it’s April already? And no April Fool’s Day jokes here! (I didn’t see any really good ones – did you?) As you see we have the lovely and wonderful Manda Collins today as our special ALBTALBS author of the month! And true to author form, she decided on a special ALBTALBS interview. You’ll notice, if you’re a regular, that I added some new questions – always looking for those!
Anyway, heeeeereeeee’s Manda!!!
1. Do you speak any languages other than English? If so, what?
I speak very rudimentary French. I couldn’t pass a written test in it, but I think I’d do all right conversationally. Along those lines, if you had to be dropped into a foreign country where you do not speak the language, which one would you pick?
Gosh, that’s a tough one. I suppose somewhere that I’d be least likely to die horribly from an inability to speak the language. Like Sweden or Norway or Finland. Don’t they always seem to come out on top in quality of life surveys? That seems safe enough.
2. What is your favorite snack? Is it the same as your go to snack? Do you prefer sweet or salty? Which is your favorite in each?
My favorite snack is Doritos. But I cannot allow them into the house because I’ll eat the entire bag by myself. My go to snack is popcorn, because if I do end up eating the entire bag by myself I won’t feel too guilty about it. Whether I prefer sweet or salty depends on my mood. Sometimes one, sometimes the other. Favorite sweet snack is Jello Chocolate pudding snacks. I love me some pudding.
3. What’s the name of your first crush? Do you have any idea what happened to him?
In Kindergarten I had a huge crush on a boy named Jake whom I showed my affection for by punching him in the stomach every day at recess. I actually feel horrible about it in retrospect. But I was a kid and for whatever reason stomach punches meant love to me then. I have no idea what happened to him. I’m hoping he’s not out there having flashbacks to the horrible little girl who punched him in the stomach every day of his Kindergarten life.
4. Which deceased author would you most like to meet if you could? Why?
This seems like cheating because her death wasn’t that long ago but I so wish I’d met Edith Layton before she died. She wrote one of my all time favorite Regency trads (LORD OF DISHONOR) and I wish I’d been able to meet her in person at least once to tell her to her face how her books changed my life. She is among a handful of romance writers who quite literally altered my perception of what historical romances could be. Her characters never failed to fascinate and she always, always included some surprising historical detail of the era she was writing about. Whether it was Elizabethan or Georgian or Regency, her stories were page turners and her characters were so freaking real. And when she told the story of a heroine who had to battle her way back from a life threatening illness in TO WED A STRANGER I know I wasn’t the only reader who felt her own story being told at last.
5. Which fairy tale would you most like to be in? Least? Why? Which character would you want to be? And (assuming this isn’t your default) – if you had to be a fairy tale villain, which one would you like to be?
I think I’d like most to be Belle in Beauty in the Beast. I mean come on, I’m a librarian. I covet that library like nobody’s business. If I had to be a fairy tale villain, I think I’d rather be the Evil Stepmother from Cinderella. At least she doesn’t try to kill Cinderella, as opposed to the Evil Queen from Snow White and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. And the witch from Hansel and Gretel. And the Big Bad Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood….Dang, these fairy tale villains are a murderous lot aren’t they?
6. Celebrity/Author death match – who would you most want to take on? [you don’t have to say why ;)]
Matt Lauer. I’m still not over the Ann Curry business.
7. Who is on your speed dial on your phone? (Or the equivalent)
My sister. My grandmother. My aunt. (I’m southern, we’re all about the fambly.)
8. What was your favorite book as a child? What is one book you think everyone should read?
LITTLE WOMEN. I read it in the second grade and remember being riveted. And heartbroken when Jo rejected Laurie. I’m still not over it. I think everyone should read Hamlet. Not because I think it’s the greatest thing ever written (though it’s pretty freaking awesome), but because it’s one of those foundational texts of Western civilization that informs so much of what came after it that you need to have read it to get the joke.
9. Who are your biggest influences, if you have any, and when did you decide to become a writer or what made you take that step? Have you ever had the chance to talk to that person about it?
Jane Austen, obviously. Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Martha Grimes, Margaret Atwood. Among romance writers, I’d say Edith Layton, Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Mary Balogh, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, and Lynn Kerstan have all informed my writing style. I always wrote, but I never really thought of myself as a writer but instead as more of a dabbler. I didn’t take the real plunge until I became a part of a group of drabble writers on the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn bulletin board who banded together during the Avon Fanlit competition. I didn’t win any of the rounds but I finaled enough times to make me think I might be able to make something of this writing business and I finished my first novel a year later. I haven’t ever really spoken to Eloisa James or Julia Quinn or the other girls from the group about how much of an influence they were on me, but I have thanked them in the acknowledgements pages of my books.
10. What’s the funniest (or worst) typo you’ve ever found? (Either one of your books or someone else’s)
Worst for me so far has been in my second book HOW TO ROMANCE A RAKE. The heroine has a severe injury to one of her feet and I have it moving from one foot to the other–not unlike Igor’s hump in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Only that was meant to be funny. Mine is more headdesky.
11. What TV show do you still wish was on the air? Along those lines, what do you think is the best TV commercial of all time?
It’s a toss up between HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS and HOMEFRONT. (Yes, I am old.) Best TV commercial of all time is Where’s the Beef?
12. If you won the next SuperPowerBallMegaBucks Lottery (what/whichever), what are the first three things you would do?
1. Donate to St. Jude’s, 2. Pay off my student loans, 3. Pay off my house.
13. Would you shave your head for $50,000.00? If yes, would you do it for a lesser amount/what’s your minimum? If no, how much would it take for you to go bald? And then… would you do anything with your hair?
Sure. I was bald for chemo years ago so I could do it again. It’s just hair. It grows back. My minimum is 10,000 dollars. If anyone wanted my hair I’d donate it.
14. If you were a zookeeper, which animals would you terrify David Letterman with?
Lions and tigers and bears. (*raspberry*)
15. What is one question you wish as an author people would ask but nobody ever does?
“Where would you like me to put your Nobel Prize?”
So! What questions do you have for Ms. Collins? One lucky person will win a copy of Manda’s latest release, How to Entice an Earl. And! Remember the special monthly contest? Someone will win a complete set of her Ugly Ducklings Trilogy!
Hi friends! We’ve got Manda Collins visiting with us today, as you can see! She was supposed to be here last Thursday too, but got a bit overwhelmed with her blog tour(s)? so she decided to condense. Which worked out for us, right? Because Myke Cole was here! We’ve got a totally different perspective about romance from Manda, which is also fun. So without further ado… Manda’s post as an AAD author!
One of the first aphorisms one learns as a child (and I’m not sure why) is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And as a grown up romance reader, I long ago realized that sometimes the books with the most deplorable or boring covers are the ones I most enjoy reading. Look at the original Fabio cover of Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm, for instance. There’s no way I could have known from looking at that prime bit of cheese that the tale inside would be one of my all time favorite romances.
When the time came to see my own cover for the first time, I have little shame in admitting that I teared up. In part because of the excitement of seeing my first book brought so starkly to life with real people in the key roles, but also with gratitude that it was so beautiful. And secure in the knowledge that I’d have no qualms about showing it to my romance-skeptic family and friends. What can I say? I blush easily. And I’m darn tired of defending the genre from the Fabio stigma. It’s been twenty years since he was on a cover, people! Move on!
One of the things I adore about my cover is that the hero’s face, Lucas I suppose I should call him, isn’t visible on the cover. I know that some people deplore the headless romance cover, but I have a huge affection for them. Mostly because I prefer not to have my own imagining of the hero and heroine interrupted with the faces of the cover models. And as I get older the cover models seem to get younger and younger.
So, with those thoughts in mind, here are a few of my favorite cover trends of the past few years, in no particular order:
1) Gowns! – Largely due to the advent of digital publishing, which requires there to be texture to set one cover apart from another, it is difficult to browse a row of historical romances without there being at least one cover showing the heroine in a billowing gown. I particularly love the richness of the colors in gown covers. Like this one of Cecilia Grant’s A Lady Awakened. The tone on tone, coupled with the nuances of the velvet gown make this one pop for me. Especially with the contrast of the heroine’s red hair against the backdrop.
2) Breaking the Fourth Wall – This is a term from theatre, that describes what happens when an actor speaks and looks directly at the audience. The first cover I can remember noticing that did this was Julia Quinn’s The Lost Duke of Wyndham which shows the heroine looking out at the reader. And lots of covers since, including my own, have followed the trend.
3) In the Middle of Things – These covers are those, like Eloisa James’ fairy tale novel covers, that seem to capture the heroine in the middle of things. The first fairy tale story, A Kiss at Midnight is an especially good example of this, as it shows the heroine running down the stairs, her glass slipper left behind. Another author whose covers follow this pattern are Kate Noble’s which often show the heroine racing off somewhere.
So, now I’ve told you what some of my favorite cover trends are, tell me some of yours! Do you prefer your hero and heroine with heads or without? Or perhaps you have some ideas about contemporary romance covers! Do tell! Inquiring minds want to know! One commenter will win a copy of How to Dance with a Duke.
What’s a wallflower to do when she’s suddenly in need of a husband? Use all the pluck and moxie she can muster to get what she wants…
She’s in need of a partner
Miss Cecily Hurston would much rather explore the antiquities of Egypt than the uncharted territory of marriage. But the rules of her father’s exclusive academic society forbid her entrance unless she weds one of its members. To clear her ailing father’s name of a scandalous rumor, Cecily needs to gain admission into the Egyptian Club—and is willing to marry any old dullard to do it.
And he has all the right moves
Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, is anything but dull. He’s a dashing and decorated war hero determined to help Cecily—even if that means looking the other way when she claims the dance card of Amelia Snow, this season’s most sought-after beauty. But Lucas has a reason for wanting Cecily to join the Egyptian Club: His brother went missing during one of Lord Hurston’s expeditions to Egypt. An alliance with the explorer’s bluestocking daughter could bring Lucas closer to the truth about what happened…or it could lead him to a more dangerous love than either he or Cecily could have imagined….
Cecily Hurston is an innocent, bookish young woman who acts without thinking things through in many aspects of her life. When she decides to marry a man simply based on his acceptance into the society, she doesn’t really understand what being married would mean for her. Enter Lucas Dalton, who offers to help her sort through the would-be prospects of eligible men to select an appropriate one, all the while determining to help her see the error of such a future. What neither of them expect is that their working together for both separate and dual purposes would ensconce them in scandal, life threatening danger, and…finally…love.
Lucas wants to know what happened to his brother; Cecily wants to know why her father is ill. For both of them, the answer lies in the fated expedition in which her father returned near death and Lucas’ brother did not return. As they search for answers together, deciding two heads are better than one, the book takes suspenseful turns amid an attempt on Cecily’s life as they draw closer to the truth. Things heat up between the two during an unsuccessful attempt to find her father’s journals, and Lucas’ charming and chivalrous behavior won my heart.
I enjoy a romance with a rogue that turns into a hero and Lucas was just such a man in spades. And I also like a romance where the hero is the one with his heart on his sleeve and the heroine is the one running away. Cecily doesn’t have a confident bone in her body when it comes to love or her worth as a woman, and has a broken heart to boot. Lucas keeps telling himself that finding out what happened to his brother is paramount to everything else, but Cecily has wormed her way steadily into his heart and mind and it’s exciting to read his transformation from bachelor to a man willing to step out on a limb for love. As they uncover the truth of her father and his brother, their relationship both blooms and wilts at varying times as misunderstandings abound on both sides. It was both sweet and upsetting to watch them struggle with their feelings, and the ending was surprising in more ways than one.
Duke contains a generous cast of characters, from the uppity Amelia to Cecily’s conspiring cousins. One of my favorite scenes in the book came early on during the ball, when she swiped Amelia’s dance card. On the back she found Amelia’s flirting cheat sheet. Cecily’s internal monologue as she tried to flirt her way into a marriage proposal and thus into the coveted club was hilarious and made me like her character right away. After all, who doesn’t appreciate when the ugly duckling realizes there really may be a swan underneath after all? Normally, I don’t go for historical novels, but in the interest of expanding my reading horizons, I was curious to read Duke. I am very glad I took a chance on reading this book and stepping outside of my comfort zone and I look forward to reading Manda’s future writings.
I enjoyed the book, and it is one I would recommend to people who enjoy period romantic suspense novels.