Review: Cinderella and the Sheikh by Teresa Morgan

cinderella sheikHero: Sheikh Rasyn (Ra-sin) Al Jabar has no interest in becoming the next ruler of his homeland, Abbas in North Africa. He decides a Western wife will surely raise the country’s hackles and get him out of the line for succession. When he spies Libby, he thinks he can fulfill his desire to leave the throne and get pleasure out of the arrangement too. He puts on his most charming face and goes in for the kill.

Heroine: Libby Fay is working as a waitress at Hotel Scheherazade in very posh upscale Manhattan. She earns big tips from the wealthy clientele. Waitressing for Libby allows her to wait on people who need a little tender loving care (TLC). She feels that she makes people’s days easier. Growing up, she and her mom would play restaurant, and that’s when she found her calling. This job is the best job she’s ever had and she’s not about to mess it up for a playboy sheikh… even if he’s devilishly handsome and charming to boot.

Review: Libby is no fool. She doesn’t feel Rasyn’s attentions are genuine. He’s only just met her – how can he be in love with her? When he proposes marriage on the first “date” she’s floored. She doesn’t love him, why would she marry him? She says “yes” to help him save face, but an inch given is a mile taken with Rasyn. Twice in the novel, Libby’s mom provides the push to allow Libby to open up to Rasyn. First, he looks at Libby like her father looked at her mother… and then later when her mom asks if she ever gave her heart a chance to love Rasyn. I liked Rasyn’s line about not marrying a man you love, but marrying a man who loves you. I thought that was great! I also like how his plan to bring in an uncultured Western woman backfires. She’s genuine and kind which draws people to her. So while she makes social gaffs like he expected, their results are anything but catastrophic. Poor Rasyn.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Cinderella and the Sheikh (Hot Contemporary Romance)

Story Tropes: Rags to Riches

in-her-dreamsGuest blog by Katherine Givens, author of In Her Dreams

One of my favorite romance tropes is the rags to riches story. I’m not talking about the traditional Cinderella story with talking mice and a pumpkin turned carriage. I’m talking about a hero who went from a street urchin dwelling in the streets of St. Giles to a self-made man who is now a decorated war hero or a successful factory owner. And all this while, as he’s risen through the ranks, his heart has only belonged to one woman. The sheltered daughter of a duke.

Or how about the destitute woman who works as a governess for meager wages? She teaches the ward of her bachelor employer and wears plain clothes, but beneath her exterior is an intelligent, vibrant woman. It is these qualities that capture the heart of her employer.

There are several examples of these rags to riches tales that do not include the talking mice. Look at Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff, the antagonistic hero, is a poor gypsy boy when the father of Catherine Earnshaw brings him to Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is orphaned when he is found in the streets of Liverpool. With gypsy blood in his veins, he is an outsider to kinder society, but that does not prevent him from losing his heart to Catherine. The two do love one another. Catherine even remarks that their souls are one and the same, but she marries another. Edgar Linton. Distraught, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights for two years. When he returns, he is smartly dressed, wealthy, and educated. He is self-made, and he did it all for Catherine. Even if he isn’t with his love until the hereafter.

Another example is Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The heroine, Anne Elliot, had been engaged to Captain Frederick Wentworth at a young age. However, her family encouraged her to break off the engagement due to Wentworth’s poor and dire living conditions. He was, after all, only a mere commander in the army. Anne gives in and does as her family seeks, but she never stops loving him. Eight years pass until Wentworth reenters Anne’s life. When he does, he is wealthier due to his service during the Napoleonic Wars. His hard work during the wars earned him 25,000 pounds. On top of that, he is dashing, determined, and successful. A man of consequence all through his own willpower. And, of course, he makes for the perfect hero throughout the course of Persuasion.

These characters rise from their poor conditions, only to gain all the riches in the world. Hard work and backbreaking labor are their friends. They know what poverty is like and appreciate wealth when it is finally achieved. On top of improving their lot in life, they often manage to find love. Heathcliff and Catherine reach their love in the afterlife, when their souls become one. Anne and Wentworth are lucky enough to find love in life, and they do not abuse one bit of it.

My debut novella, In Her Dreams, with Harlequin Australia’s Escape Publishing lacks the rags to riches trope. However, it remains my favorite storyline. The novel I am nearly done writing has the rags to riches trope, and I can’t wait to be able to share it. For now, I am excited to share my novella In Her Dreams, which was just released today! In Her Dreams doesn’t have the rags to riches storyline, but it has my second favorite story trope. Entangled love affairs between two sisters and their suitors.

In Her Dreams

A flirty, fun, mix-and-match romance about two sisters who are betrothed to the wrong men…

Evangeline Vernon is a woman on the verge of spinsterhood — until the prim and proper Duke of Manchester steps in. Her family is pleased with the match, but the duke is not the passionate man Evangeline craves. Her heart belongs to an alluring, golden-haired gentleman, perfect in every way…except one: he doesn’t exist.

Angela Vernon is everything a proper, well-brought-up woman should be. She knows her place and understands society’s expectations — which include not being jealous of her sister and not coveting her sister’s suitor. But how can she bear the heartache of watching the only man she loves marry not only her sister, but a woman who doesn’t see past his exterior to the man he is beneath?

Buy: In Her Dreams

katherine givensIn Her Dreams is Katherine’s debut novella, which is published with Harlequin Australia’s imprint Escape Publishing. She is working on a number of other projects and always has ideas flooding her head. In her spare time, Katherine loves to read about history, craft jewellery, and play with her ornery kitten named Bucky. To learn more about Katherine and her writing, please visit the following sites. She loves to hear from readers.

Buy: In Her Dreams (novella)

Movie Review: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella Starring Brandy Norwood and Paolo Montalban

I love Cinderella. I don’t really know anybody who doesn’t adore this type of character. Her story is one of rags to riches; poor in money but rich in love. Take her story, a timeless classic, and add Rodgers and Hammerstein to the mix and you have a hit musical. I love all versions of this musical but my all time favorite stars quite a cast of famous names including: Brandy Norwood, Bernadette Peters, Veanne Cox, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander, Whitney Houston, and Natalie Desselle.

In this version three new songs are added to the mix. They’re fun, uplifting, and just exciting to watch on screen. The first to appear is ‘The Deepest Love in all the World,’ sung by Brandy Norwood and Paolo Montalban. This song occurs just before they first meet in the market and it’s completely wonderful. It is probably my favorite song in the whole production. The next addition is ‘Falling in Love with Love,’ sung by the unparalleled Bernadette Peters. You really get to know the Stepmother in this sequence. The last is probably my least favorite, but it occurs at the very end of the movie in all the wrap-up so you can easily ignore it and that is ‘The Music in You’ sung by Whitney Houston.

I love the multi-ethnic casting! An Asian prince, a Caucasian king, a Black queen, and so on. Jason Alexander as the prince’s valet is spectacularly funny. Whoopi plays a wonderfully concerned queenly mother who just happens to always want her own way. Wink. Brandy is charming as Cinderella. She really makes you feel that she is Cinderella; her eyes are very expressive. Everyone was wonderful, so even as you recognize them on screen or try to figure out who they are the acting pulls you back into the movie before you can say Bibbity Bobbity Boo.

The choreography, costumes, singing, dialogue is colorful, spirited, enchanting, and just wow. Honestly, if you’re looking for a gift for your daughter, sister, or friend you can’t go wrong picking this movie out. It’s a feel good, put a spring in your step happy movie that gets you singing and dancing around the room just so you can join in the festivities.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme-Evans

by Zarabeth, guest reviewer

I loved this book!

The End.

Seriously, though, I really really enjoyed this novel. I could not put it down. Not because it was edge of your seat thriller or even hot and heavy it was simply a masterfully-told story. I connected so much with our heroine, Ellen, that I didn’t want to leave her.

There are quite a few ups and downs in Ellen’s life, but I was literally rooting for her out loud. (I think I must have been a bit of a conundrum at bedtime for my poor boyfriend).

Through every trial we get see how Ellen manages to pick herself up when I’m pretty sure I would not be able to do so. Her disasters are tragic and her conquests are miraculous. If you enjoy period romance with light sprinkles of intimacy then this is the book for you!

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Dressmaker

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Review: These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

arcreview

These Old Shades is a mashup of several of my favorite romance plots all rolled into one story. It’s a May/December where the hero is significantly older than the heroine. It’s also a Guardian/Ward pairing as well as Employer/Employee. The heroine even goes half the novel cross-dressing, though the hero is aware of this fact. She’s also a bit of a Cinderella figure going from rags to riches. There’s revenge, kidnapping, and a little cat/mouse too. In short, it’s got it all.

The hero is one of the reasons why I love this story so much. He’s portrayed as a dandy with scented handkerchiefs and heeled shoes. He’s keenly aware of fashion and how he appears to others. But underneath his dandyish appearance, Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, is an alpha male hero to the core. He’s got an agenda with an old foe, Compte de Saint Vire, and with our heroine Léonie. The only thing he isn’t prepared for is love to knock him right off his dainty yet manly heels.

The heroine is a bit of a spitfire. To some she might appear as simply a fawning submissive under Alastair with her constant “Yes, Monseigneur” and “No, Monseigneur” but in actuality she’s very aware of what she’s doing. Léonie is described as a Nonpareil in the book which means there isn’t anyone (i.e. a woman who is) her equal. For the time period, which is pre-revolutionary France, this is definitely true. She cross-dresses, swordfights, becomes the hero’s personal page, wins over a prince, goes the way of Eliza Doolittle and learns to become a lady, and still manages to mangle the English language.

Georgette Heyer really utilized the side characters in These Old Shades in my opinion. One of my favorite passages doesn’t even contain the hero and heroine though it is entirely focused on them. It’s a section of dialogue between two side characters examining what’s going on between the leads.

These Old Shades is my absolute favorite Georgette Heyer romance. I haven’t read them all yet, but I have a pretty good feeling this statement would remain the same even if I had.

I give it a perfect score.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: These Old Shades

Find and buy more Georgette Heyer novels.

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Get into Bed with Grace Burrowes (Author Interview)

Keira: In a Regency battle of the sexes, who would win in a game of wits: Gayle Windham or Anna Seaton?

Grace Burrowes: They would go at it tooth and nail for about the first three rounds, then become distracted by their chemistry and start to negotiate (the technical term would be “flirt”) between hurling arguments and tossing out witty asides, and pretty soon, the battle would be forgotten in the haze of growing attraction, until, well… they’d both win, at the same time, more than once.

Keira: Who has the most power over the household: the housekeeper or the earl?

GB: This is a fascinating question, but from a Regency perspective, the earl. His word was literally law within the walls of his home at the time, but unless he wanted damp sheets, cold food, bad razors, weak tea, and rancid butter, he’d better be on good terms with both his cook and his housekeeper.

Keira: What would Gayle say is deadlier: a woman with a fireplace poker or a matchmaking mama in the country?

GB: A matchmaking mama, by far! All it takes to withstand the fireplace poker is a very hard head, which his lordship has. The matchmaking mamas are an invidious, scheming, tireless, horde, aided and abetted by the old duke himself.

Keira: Anna’s story is a rags-to-riches tale (or should I say from Housekeeper to Duchess). So my question is how is a housekeeper like a Duchess?

GB: In truth, Anna was raised in an earl’s household, so she’s had more than a glimpse of the comfortable side of aristocratic living, but both a housekeeper and a duchess must have the ability to delegate, to keep peace among their underlings, to show grace under fire, and to handle uppity aristocratic men with a deft touch. It doesn’t hurt if they’re poised, self-reliant and tolerant of others, either.

Keira: Is Anna really a war widow?

GB: There were hordes of these too—Waterloo alone created more than 20,000 casualties—but she is not. At the time, the title Missus was bestowed on or appropriated by various women who were not married, housekeepers among them. It was also acceptable practice of the day for a courtesan to take the title, “Mrs. Protector,” at least among her social circle.

Keira: What was your favorite scene to write in The Heir and why?

GB: Hoo-boy… I like the scene where a sick Westhaven arrives on the doorstep of his former fiancée and her current, adoring spouse. Douglas scolds and insults and generally has great fun at Westhaven’s expense, even as he rallies immediately to protect Westhaven’s interests. The ways men show they care about each other fascinate and confound me.

Keira: How do you define love?  (It’s a tough question, but one of my favorites to ask romance authors.)

GB: Love between adults is an act of will that elevates the good of the beloved to a status comparable to the lover’s own self-interest. This is more or less Plato’s take on it, but I think he put the good of the beloved above that of the person loving. I put the two as equal, which is a terrific challenge to figure out in a dynamic relationship. It requires work, creativity, and tenacity. (I don’t think my characters from the Regency would recognize this definition.)

Keira: What do you think makes a great lovemaking scene?

GB: Gracious… The intimate scenes are the hardest for me to write. I get down a paragraph, go start the tea kettle. A sentence or two, go take the kettle off the burner. Unravel a paragraph. Eat a cookie. A great love scene is one where the characters’ motivations for being intimate at that time and place are so clear the scene reads as if that is exactly what had to happen at that point in the story, and exactly how it had to happen. It can arouse or not, but it must move the reader closer to the story.

Keira: Can you tell us a little about Proper Peer? What else is next for you?

GB: Ohhhh… somebody has been peeking! Douglas and Gwen’s story is actually the fourth in a succession, with Westhaven and Anna’s being the fifth (The previous stories relate to Gwen’s cousins, Gareth, Andrew, and [in-law] David). Douglas is one hurtin’ pup at the beginning of his story, honor being about all he has left to him. He must humble himself to ask for Gwen’s help, but she—not being in any better shape than he is—is disinclined to assist him. But he goes and saves her kid’s life, and geesh, what’s a heroine to do? It’s a lovely story, all the better for having pointed me in the direction of the Windham family and that rascally old duke.

But next, coming out in 2011, we have the remaining Windham brothers who also have five sisters…

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about? The floor’s open!

GB: I started writing after my parenting responsibilities were largely behind me, and it has been wonderful, like finding a pot of gold at the end of one of life’s rainbows. I love to write, love to turn on the computer and crank up my imagination. I know every book won’t appeal to every reader, but if my stories can bring a little cheer and comfort, if they can distract an overworked, tired mom from her frustrations and challenges, then I’ll consider myself a successful writer.

If you enjoy Gayle and Anna’s story, then you can look forward to Devlin St. Just’s (the eldest brother, but illegitimate) story in  The Soldier in July 2011, Valentine’s story in The Virtuoso in November 2011, and the first  of the Windham sisters’ stories, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish, next October, all from Sourcebooks Casablanca.

I love to hear from my readers, and can be reached at www.graceburrowes.com.

Thank you, Keira. These were among the most creative and thought-provoking questions I’ve come across.

THE HEIR BY GRACE BURROWES – IN STORES DECEMBER 2010

An Earl Who Can’t Be Bribed…

Gayle Windham, Earl of Westhaven, is the first legitimate son and heir to the Duke of Moreland. To escape his father’s inexorable pressure to marry, he decides to spend the summer at his townhouse in London, where he finds himself intrigued by the secretive ways of his beautiful housekeeper.

A Lady Who Can’t Be Protected…

Anna Seaton is a beautiful, talented, educated woman, which is why it is so puzzling to Gayle that she works as his housekeeper.

As the two draw closer and begin to lose their hearts to each other, Anna’s secrets threaten to bring the earl’s orderly life crashing down—and he doesn’t know how he’s going to protect her from the fallout…

Buy: The Heir

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Burrowes is the penname for a prolific author of historical romances whose manuscripts have so far won, finaled, or garnered honorable mention in Romance Writers of America-run contests in Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, and Florida. Burrowes is a practicing attorney specializing in family law. She lives in rural Maryland and is working on her next book, The Soldier, set to release in July 2011. She can be reached through her website at www.graceburrowes.com.

PS - Through December 2010 you can buy The Heir (Kindle version) at 66% off for just $2.39! Good deal!