Tuesday 20 March 2012

First Review

Review of Reluctance by Jen Black
River Derwent
"She’s lovely, with a peaches and honey glow and a wickedly devastating smile, an intellect a cut above her peers, and perhaps the wealthiest heiress in the country.  He’s darkly handsome, all chiseled angles and fine bones, a faint aura of citrus and sandalwood, a tendency towards few words, and plenty of money of his own.

 These two really should meet, and they do when Lady Frances Rathmere literally fishes Jack Slade, Marquess of Streatham, out of the river on her estate.  Their relationship, begun under such untoward—and certainly unromantic—circumstances, progresses in a fashion that would horrify the denizens of society in early Regency London and Bath. But this is the North of England, where life is lived in tune with nature and definitely more colorfully, and where people, even the gentry and those with titles, are more full-blooded and multifaceted than their insipid and overly polite cousins to the south.

 Frances is a widow in her late twenties whose husband, a childhood friend, left her with a decided aversion to “marital duties.”  She is determined not to marry again, despite her family’s equal determination that she should and would, at the earliest opportunity.  Jack is a widower who was so devastated by the death of his wife in childbirth that out of guilt he swore not only never to marry again but also to remain celibate for the rest of his life.  Thus we have two protagonists who are reluctant, so say the least, to alter their present states, regardless of whatever attraction might develop between them or whatever circumstances might arise to change their opinions about what they should—or should not—do.

 This is a historical romance in the best sense of the genre.  Jen Black has captured the setting of the North Country with such precision and spare, elegant descriptions that the reader could be nowhere else but Northumberland.  She has done the same with her characters who, from the two protagonists to minor figures who pass briefly through the novel, are rendered with precision and such beautiful detail that they become real, rather than one-dimensional actors from a stock play.  One of the most difficult aspects of a book any book, is dialogue, and if the characters speak to each other as if they’re reciting lines from a very bad play, this ruins the story, no matter how inventive the plot.  The dialogue throughout the story is crisp, funny, moving, emotional, and above all, believable for each character who speaks.  Not an easy thing to accomplish, but Ms. Black is a master at it.

 This is not a formulaic Regency tale with a trite reliance on stilted drawing room manners and silly encounters in all the usual places with all the usual people.  Instead, it’s a story with enough twists and unpredictable turns to make you dizzy, while Frances and Jack will alternately endear themselves to you and drive you crazy.  In any event, you won’t be able to forget these two or their story.

 A useful hint:  don’t begin to read this book until you know you’ll suffer no ill effects from reading throughout the night.  I learned this the hard way."

 Margaret Scott Chrisawn, Ph.D

Reluctance will be published in April 2012 by MuseItUp Publishing

Monday 12 March 2012

My blog at the Romantic Novelist Assocation of Great Britain

Tomorrow I will be a guest blogger at the Romantic Novelists Association of Great Britain.

You are cordially invited to read about me and to learn about the RNA.

Link: htp://www.romanticnovelists association.org

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Reluctance by Jen Black

"Marriage might be the safest place to hide if you are afraid of love"

Blurb: You’d think he’d be grateful when Frances, the richest heiress in England, saves him from drowning, but Jack is living in his own private hell after the death of his wife. Frances thinks he’s a rude, insufferable idiot and forgets him. When Holbrook arrives in his glorious regimentals and dazzles the neighborhood, Frances fails to see his charm, but her mother, match-making hat firmly in place, claims that he’s admirable husband material even if he is without funds. He thinks Frances is just the heiress for him.
Then the newspaper publishes an ugly letter that questions her reputation. Horrified, she believes Jack is the culprit and challenges him…

Jack could not breathe. A heavy weight pressed on his chest. A spasm clenched his body. He rolled to his side and vomited water onto the grass. Wheezing, he drew in a painful gulp of air, and got rid of more water. The pressure eased. He sprawled on his back.

“As if I am not wet enough,” a feminine voice remarked. “But I forgive you, for I thought you had left this world for a better place.”

Jack frowned. Who the blazes… Dizzy, half-conscious, he thought of Eleanor and opened his eyes. A blaze of sunlight made him close them again. Squinting, he made out a kneeling figure with a cloud of honey-coloured curls surrounding a pale face. His frown deepened. It was not Eleanor.

“Who are you?” he croaked. Lord, his throat was sore.

“How do you feel?”

Idiotic question, but he gave it thought. “Cold, bloody cold. My throat hurts. And my head aches. Who are you?”

The breeze struck the wet cloth of his shirt and plastered it against his skin. He shivered and saw his feet were in the river. He drew them back and found it took far more effort than he expected. No wonder he was cold. His shirt was naught but wet rags, his hair dripped water, and he suspected half of the river sloshed around inside his boots. He looked back at the young woman. The sun shone through her hair and gave her a halo of gold. He shivered again.

It was not Eleanor.

Pain hollowed his body as it always did when memory struck without warning. Struggling to hide his feelings and gain control of his muscles, he turned from the stranger and stared at the sky above the distant tree tops.

This was not London, but Streatham. He had come to the old house in the middle of May, and already a fortnight or more must have gone by. This morning he had set out to ride to Chopwell, and, lost in memories of his wife, had taken a wrong turn. He remembered riding like the devil. Something had unhorsed him.

“Where’s my horse?” He got an elbow beneath him and tried to rise.

Moving had been a mistake. The world whirled around him. When everything steadied, he glared at the dog, red and glossy as a conker, crouched beside him on the opposite side to the young lady. It whined and inched closer. “That damned dog unseated me.” He blocked its affectionate approach. “Stupid dog.”

“Stay, Gyp.” The dog looked at its mistress as if acknowledging her words, and then transferred its attention back to him. “Sir, have a little gratitude.” Her voice had turned frosty. “That noble creature helped save you from drowning.”

Jack glared at the dog. It was wet. Soaked, in fact. “It was your damned dog that put me in the water in the first place. It deserves all my displeasure and more. The animal is no more than a bloody nuisance. Get off!” He pushed away the beast’s probing muzzle.


The dog obeyed her with such a reproachful glance Jack might have laughed if he felt less like heaving his guts up again.

“Now, sir, tell me how you do.”

Her air of calm confidence rattled him. Jack contemplated the calm hazel eyes, pointed chin, and the swirling cloud of hair. An image of the long, slow, sinuous coils of honey falling from his breakfast spoon filled his mind.

He shook his head to clear it. Only Eleanor’s long black hair and laughing eyes would do for him.

She put out a swift hand to shield herself from cold water drops.

“Sorry,” he muttered. “God, I am soaked.” He plucked at the sodden tatters of his shirt and then gave up. It was beyond repair.

He smelled a faint flower perfume. It must come from her. Strong enough to survive the overpowering scents of grass, river water, and mud; it awoke memories of long, love-laden nights with Eleanor. Such things had ended with Eleanor’s death. He schooled his expression before looking up to meet the searching gaze of his companion. Her fichu had been knocked awry and a generous amount of bosom crowded into the neckline of her round gown. The kind of dress Eleanor favoured for a day at home when she expected no visitors; plain light cotton with double sleeves and silk ribbons, now wet and bedraggled, dangling from beneath her bosom.

Her voice broke in on his thoughts. “Sir, you must tell me how you feel.”

“As you might expect,” he snapped. “Cold, wet, and none too happy.”

She sat back on her heels. “There is no cause to be rude.”

“Your wretched dog was the reason for my upset.”

The woman raised one eyebrow. “Perhaps she did surprise your horse by leaping up the bank as she did, but really, sir, part of the blame must lie with you.”

“How the hell do you make that out?”

She smiled sweetly. “Because this is private land, and you should not be riding across it.”

Reluctance is coming in April from http://museituppublishing.com/
Read another excerpt on Jen's blog: http://jenblackauthor.blogspot.com