Thursday, March 30, 2006

Movin' on up...

Recently reviewed The Devil in Winter has just appeared for the FOURTH week on the New York Times bestseller list - position number 7, no less...

Who said historical romance is dead?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

REVIEWBALL #1: Devil In Winter by Lisa Kleypas

The Devil in Winter
by Lisa Kleypas

Cai: Book three (four if you count Again the Magic) in the Wallflower series, this tells the story of Sebastian and Evangeline. At first glance, no one would put these two characters together – the dissolute admitted rake who beds a woman once and then forgets her existence and the shy-to-the-point-of-stammering virtuous young woman. But on closer examination, they’re great together. Evie needs someone with enough clout and physical strength to protect her from her mother’s family, Sebastian needs her wealth.

SL: I couldn’t get it. Why did chronically, painfully, paralyzingly shy Evangeline go after the man who had threatened one of her friends? I loved the two earlier books along with Against The Magic so I looked forward to Devil. I wasn’t sure Kleypas could hold on to the enchantment of the first two wallflower stories.

Cai: As the story begins, Sebastian believes Evie to be a simpleton, but as they discuss their “marriage of convenience” (BIG RED FLAG for romance readers everywhere (g) ), he realizes she’s actually quite intelligent and surprisingly quite attractive. Evie quite firmly tells him she will have sex with him ONCE (another BRF) to validate their marriage, and then she expects him to find his release elsewhere. Sebastian counters by telling her he’s fine with that arrangement as he’s easily bored, especially by inexperience – you just have to love a true rake!

SL: Personally I adore “marriage of convenience” stories with their conflict already built in. An author has so much room to play with. Where Kleypas really grabbed me was the setting. Did she put our erstwhile couple in a townhome in Mayfair? A country estate? Not even! She stuck them in the middle of a falling-down-around-their-ears gambling establishment. Ok, Ms. Kleypas, you now have my attention. And who is that dreamy Gypsy lad? Can I have two of him to go?

Cai: Now, every romance reader everywhere is going, “Okay, I get it. Marriage of Convenience. Of course they’re going to fall in love with one another, of course neither will admit it, and of course there are going to be several misunderstandings along the way to that HEA.” Well, you’re right. I’m not giving anything away by telling you that those expectations will be met. However…it’s the journey to that HEA that makes The Devil in Winter such an enjoyable read.

SL: But Cai… you have to tell the reader something about the book to get them to read it. You do want them to read it right? Can’t you tell them about the bath scene? Or the recovering from a bullet wound scene? Ok, I guess we really can’t, but trust me, they are GREAT moments in this book. After devouring the book in one night, I realized why this book leapt up the best seller charts.

Cai: You will cry with Evie at certain points in the book, which I will not elaborate on. You will cheer for Sebastian as he comes into his own as a responsible man. You’ll want a fan nearby when at one particular point in the book, Sebastian tells his bride just what he’d like to do to and with her! And, if you’re like me, you’ll lust after a certain Irish Gypsy (g) and be looking forward to his story.

There’s intrigue and evil aplenty in the form of Evie’s family. I LOVE the confrontation scenes.

All in all, I give this story a rousing CHEER.

SL: Good sex, funny tete-a-tetes between not only the hero and heroine, but the hero and his best friend and the heroine and her friends as well. So far, this is not my favorite of the Wallflowers, but I will give it a sitting in the bleachers CHEER. Stand-up cheers are my best.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Are you ready...

Are You Ready For REVIEWBALL?

Okay, here's the thing...Stephanie & I both read. A LOT. We frequently read the same books - sometime this is by design (one will call the other and say, "you HAVE to read this book!"), sometimes it's quite by default as we like many of the same authors.

There are other times we will read the same book and one of us will not be as enamored as the other. With all that being said, we decided to do something a little different with reviews. What about "dueling" reviews? We read the same book, each do a review and post it here. Sometimes we'll agree on the book, sometimes we won't. So...ARE YOU READY?

It’s a new take on reviews as Stephanie Arwen Beck and Cai Smith, the writing duo otherwise known as Cai Stephan, face off over books they’ve read. Forget the gridiron. Forego the ice. And don’t even think about baseball as these two longtime friends let loose.

Will it be cheers or jeers for your favorite books?

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Do you listen to your muse or do you shoot Her down at every chance. When that stray thought floats through your mind about a heroine with a big shaggy dog that makes the hero sneeze. Then your mind wonders if this were a Regency and your heroine were in a marriage of convenience, what if she used the dog as her line of defense. If she couldn’t have the beast with her, she would make sure to get dog hair on her outfit before going anywhere with him.

But then some cold, calm, logical voice says, “Oh that won’t sell. It’s ridiculous. Besides, you don’t have time to research a Regency. Stick to what you know.”

And you let that thought drift on out of your mind never to be heard from again. Then next year you pick up a book where the heroine has this big shaggy dog…. Well, you catch my drift, I’m sure.

You have failed to honor your muse. At the very least write the idea down. Play with it a bit. Maybe it won’t work for you. Perhaps it is the stupidest idea since Freedom Fries, but what if it wasn’t? What if it was a gift that you scorned?

Place yourself in the Muse’s shoes (strappy high heels or sporty slings). If your job, your calling, your gift was to dance about in other people’s imagination and offer them tidbits, how would you feel if one person constantly spurned you? How much would it take for you to keep going back to that person with ideas and thoughts and even full blown plot lines?

I know me and it wouldn’t take long before I would leave them to their own well of creativity. And when that well ran dry? It would take quite a bit of coaxing to bring me back to their side. Rejection isn’t easy even if you ARE a daughter of the Gods and have sisters to lean on.

So keep a notebook handy or a small tape recorder by your side. Jot down those thoughts. Listen to your mind when you are reading the newspaper or watching television. Don’t ignore the opportunities to fill your Future Stories Folder to the brim. When you are stuck on your wip, then dip into that folder. Pull one out. Let your pen wander over a clean sheet of paper.

And don’t forget to thank your Muse when you return to your wip with a fresh outlook and a few new plot twists.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


How can anyone doubt the power of Romance fiction in today's world?

Lisa Kleypas' newest novel, The Devil in Winter - released on MARCH 1 - has already reached the top TEN on the New York Times, USA Today AND Publisher's Weekly lists. This is the third book in her Wallflower Series - actually, the fourth if you count Again the Magic which introduces at least one of the main characters .

Nine days - it took NINE DAYS to hit bestseller status. How can anyone say that Romance novels are "trash" or "bodice rippers" with statistics like that? Obviously it's not just a passing fad - Romance novels ARE big news, they ARE well-written, and they ARE capable of making it to the TOP of the bestseller lists.

If you saw the CBS Sunday Morning report on Romance Novels/Novelists, how could you possibly believe that people - women in particular - aren't reading romance? How can you dismiss romance novels as "unworthy" or as "those books"? When someone questions my reading tastes because I'm reading a romance novel, my first response is to ask them what they have against a "happy ending"...

Frankly, I think we could ALL use a "happy ending" from time to time. I get very tired of 'bad' news and really look forward to settling down with a "good" book with an emotionally satisfying ending. If that makes me a sap, well, all I can say is that I am in VERY good company! ;)

Friday, March 03, 2006

On Agents...

Just how important it is to have an agent when you’re trying to get published? There seem to be several schools of thought on this topic. Some say it is essential, others, not so much. Some people have sold their first book without an agent, and then get an agent before they sell their second. Some people sell more than one book without an agent and are perfectly happy dealing with the contract negotiations themselves. One published author I know has had many agents but has never sold a book through an agent – all of her sales have come when she’s been between agents!

I’m not sure where I stand on this issue. Don’t get me wrong, if an agent approached me tomorrow and said, “I love your book and know just where we can sell it,” I’d jump on that with both feet. However, I know several published authors who have agents and love them, others who have agents and tolerate them, and still a few more who have agents and are looking for new agents!

In a recent panel discussion with several published authors, this very question arose. An unpublished author said, “I always hear about the questions you should ask an agent before accepting their representation, but what ARE those questions?” The answers were as varied as the published authors, but the one that stuck with me is this one: ask the agent, “why do you love my story?”

As a writer, you must LOVE your story. Hopefully, you’ll find an editor who feels the same and will BUY your story. An agent must also LOVE your story. If they love your voice and they love your characters and they love your plotting and they love your conflict and they love everything about your story, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re going to do their best to sell that story to an editor.

I recently perused one of those “guide” books in the library regarding agents. Do you KNOW how many agents there are out there? HUNDREDS of them. Surely, somewhere out there in the great big publishing world, there is ONE agent who will feel the same way about our characters/stories that we do…now we just have to find that agent…or not.