Archive | March 2013

Guest Blog Schedule & Topics

As part of my upcoming virtual book tour, I’ll be guest blogging for a few of the sites who have graciously decided to promote my book for the day. So while I write my posts and start editing Book 2, this blog will be a bit quieter than usual this week. In the meantime, feel free to peruse the blogs on my tour. The following are the dates and topics of my guest posts.
April 9 – Bunny’s Reviews
 Starting Out As A Writer:  5 Things You Should Know
Writing, Rules and Fantasy Creatures
April 13 – Must Read Faster
Top 10 Favorite Books and Why
An Interview with Alaric and Isabel
Happy Passover, Easter and a happy belated Ostara to all! Enjoy your week 🙂
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Heroes and Hearts is going on tour!

Heroes+Hearts_Noemi-Betancourt-1

The virtual tour of the first book in the Crystal Palace Chronicles trilogy is about to begin! From April 8 – May 3, bloggers around the world will be reading and reviewing Heroes and Hearts as well as interviewing yours truly. There will also be some great prizes and contests during this time so be sure to show these blogs some love.

April 8 – Reading Addiction Blog Tours – Meet and Greet
April 9 – Bunny’s Reviews – Guest Post/Giveaway/PROMO
$10 Amazon Gift Card + eBook
April 10 – The Book Faery Reviews – Guest Post/Giveaway/PROMO
$10 Amazon Gift Card + eBook
April 11 – Book Marks the Spot – Giveaway/PROMO
$10 Amazon Gift Card + eBook
April 12 – My Pathway to Books – Review
April 13 – Must Read Faster – Guest Post/PROMO
April 14 – Sylv Jenkins – Guest Post/PROMO
April 15 – BookRix – Review/Giveaway
$100 Amazon Gift Card + Heroes and Hearts swag + BookRix Sampler Pack
April 16 – My Reading Addiction – Review
April 18 – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews – Interview/PROMO
April 19 – Author Ever Leigh – Review
April 20 – Texas Book Nook – Review
April 21 – Busy Mom Book Reviews – Review/Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card + eBook
April 22 – Feed My Need, For a Good Read – Interview/Giveaway/PROMO
$25 Amazon Gift Card + eBook

April 23 –The Avid Reader – Review/Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card + eBook

April 24 – YA Bookish News – Interview/PROMO

April 25 – My Cozie Corner – Review
April 26 – Words I Write Crazy – Review/Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card + eBook
April 27 – Magnolia Blossom Review – Review/Interview/Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card + eBook
April 28 – Inside BJ’s Head – Review/Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card + eBook
April 29 – The Serial Reader – Review/Interview
April 30 – pending
May 1 – Book Maven – Review
May 2 Fairy Tale BooksReview
May 3 – RABT Reviews – Review
May 6 – Announce the BookRix big giveaway winner!

 The new edition of Heroes and Hearts launches April 8th so be sure to pick up a copy and prepare yourself for the publication of The Crystal Palace Chronicles Book 2: The Descendants of Quendaris on May 3, 2013!
There are still a few slots left on the tour so if you have a blog and would be interested in writing a review of Heroes and Hearts, click here.

Book Review: Her Highness, My Wife by Victoria Alexander

Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time in my life I have found a book that I did not like yet did not feel compelled to fling across the room. Mainly, I think, because I was just too damn BORED! This book was absolutely terrible! It opens with a letter written by a mother to her daughter and from that letter we find out the little country of Greater Avalonia is involved in an insurrection that killed the daughter’s husband and her father and brothers lives are in danger so she takes her baby daughter and runs to England for their safety. Fantastic! This is a story I can get into. Then we see the daughter is writing a letter back to her mother explaining that she has a duty to her country and will not just sit idly by while her father and brothers do all the fighting. The princess, oh excuse me, hereditary princess as she keeps reminding readers, her friends and whoever else she comes across over and over again, then drops in on a man who she’d left suddenly after about a year. No wait, 15 months, 3 weeks and 4 days as he keeps telling her over and over again. After a while I started hearing that song from Rent playing in my head.

Sixty nine million three thousand four hundred thirty six miiinutes….

At this point I found myself getting really distracted. First, the date of the mother’s letter was 1767 but the story opens in 1819. As Princess Tatiana is talking to Lord Matthew I’m wondering where’s the baby and how come neither of them are mentioning her daughter? When they both start talking about her disappearance of over a year I’m wondering where the hell she’s been the rest of the time. Mind you I haven’t actually done the math between the two dates because the last thing I want to do when I open a romance novel is start working on my math skills!

I JUST WANT TO READ!!!

Then I realize it’s not even the same friggin person! The letter is from the Queen to Tatiana’s Aunt Sophia. What makes this really confusing is that Tatiana also lost her husband to an insurrection and her father and brother are still fighting the enemy and she too was exiled to England for her safety except there’s no baby. She comes back to Lord Matthew asking for his help because she wants to document Sophia’s story for her family’s history. She doesn’t want to travel around the country as a princess because “people are intimidated by royalty” so she wants Lord Matthew Weston to come with her posing as her husband because you know, the same people who would get tongue tied around royalty will just open right up and feel totally comfortable speaking to a Lord and Lady, right? Matthew questions the idea not because of her absurd logic but because he never figured her as the scholarly type. To this she goes into a tirade about all the things she knows including his hobby of ballooning.

So despite being hurt by the fact she just up and disappeared one day, breaking his heart in the process, he’s intrigued and tells her he’ll think about it and we find her talking to her cousins and closest confidants about the fact that she’s not actually interested in writing her aunt’s history but she’s searching for some royal jewels that Sophia may have had with her. So yeah, looks like ole Matt was right about that. When cousin Dimitri remarks about how she’s become much more assertive, aka a bitch, over the past year she goes into bitch mode and threatens to have him shot. In the next minute though, she’s all kind and soft again and tells him he could speak freely with her any time. We now discover that her new habit of being a bitch started when she disappeared in Paris for six days. Dimitri has a moment of clarity and realizes the disappearance coincides with the time she met Matthew.

I am a hereditary princess and I will CUT YOU!

So, Lord Matthew is getting bent out of shape and carrying on like a little girl because the mysterious woman he knew for SIX DAYS disappears again and doesn’t reappear for a year (Seasons of Loooooove…). I don’t know what happened in those six days but apparently she managed to discover he was estranged from his family, dreamed of inventing a balloon that didn’t send the operator careening to the ground in a fiery death and wanted to invest in a ship that would finance his balloon dreams. Seems to me they had one good roll in the hay and he opened up like a prank can of peanut brittle.

My friends, this was all before you get to chapter three. I have a rule when reading books. If you don’t get my attention by Chapter one, you’ve had it. If your characters or premise are mildly interesting in chapter one you need to capture my attention by chapter three. Well folks, this book gave me a migraine by chapter three and I find I’m really not that interested in finding out the rest of the story. The introduction is annoyingly confused, the heroine is irritating and needs to take her meds and the hero is a soft whiny little schmuck who today would be engrossed in games of three dimensional chess and rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock!

But we had sex, in my balloon, that means she loved me!

And so I say, avoid this book like the plague. I understand it gets even more confusing before all is revealed and everything starts falling into place. It’s a real shame because judging by what Alexander is going for I think it could have made for a great story but the execution just sucks out loud!

Dogtags and Desire: Military Women Romance Novel Excerpt

I have been a military spouse for just over 10 years and one essential part of being a successful military spouse is the ability to keep busy! One way I have done so is writing and one project I’ve been working on is a compilation of love stories geared towards spouses and women serving in the military. This compilation is nearly complete and should be published sometime this year, I’m just trying to decide whether to keep it in compilation form or throw all the characters together into a single novel.

Before you ask, no I am not a fan of Army Wives. I was excited about the concept but got disenchanted when I saw one of the first story lines embraced the stereotype that all spouses screw around on their husbands during deployment. I also found the show a little overdramatic and too soap opery (is a word?;). In my experience, the life of a military wife is packed with enough drama all on its own without involving secret segregates and hostage situations.

Anyway, the following is an excerpt featuring Navy couple, Grace and Daniel. Enjoy!

Homecoming

Gracie stood on the pier waiting.  She had been waiting 18 whole months for this moment and the past two weeks were the most agonizing.  The young blonde had cried herself to sleep more times than she cared to remember.  She bit her deep red lips to fight back the tears as her heart remembered sinking on the morning of yet another holiday spent alone and lurching when she got word Daniel had been injured.  Thankfully the wound hadn’t been fatal although she had secretly wished it had been just bad enough to send him back home to her.

The unusually warm spring breeze played with loose strands of shiny flaxen locks done up in Greek goddess fashion as she glanced around to the other wives and families who were loaded with flowers, balloons and gifts and making small talk with each other as the minutes endlessly ticked by.  Suddenly someone gave a yell and everyone turned and began waving though the ship was still just on the horizon and too far to make out any details.

Gracie’s heart pounded and she fought for a second time to keep the tears from falling.  He was home, finally, he was home!  The air crackled with electricity as the boat slowly approached and took forever to tie up.  People were already yelling to each other on cell phones and once liberty was called cheers erupted from ship and pier alike. Gracie’s anxiety continued to rise as she watched the sailors pour off the ship, reunite with their loved ones and disappear into the parking lot. Finally, the familiar silhouette of her husband appeared on the brow. His grin reached from ear to ear as they approached each other, his blue eyes sparkled as they roamed over her brand new figure. It had been almost two years since they had been together and although she had caught the eye of many men as the pounds melted away, she had never been tempted to cheat on Daniel no matter how much she liked the new attention she’d been receiving.  The line, “he’ll never know” just never washed with her.

The drive only took ten minutes but felt like eternity and the closer to home they got the more her heart pounded, her stomach filled to bursting with butterflies.  She knew her husband wasn’t the least bit nervous as he kissed her hungrily at every stop light and intersection and caressed her thighs and arms, running his hands over her abdomen and hips as she drove.

“You’re gonna make me crash, honey,” she giggled as he leaned over and began kissing her shoulder while cupping one of her breasts.

“So pull over,” he replied with a mischievous smile and tone that made Gracie’s breath catch in her throat as a throbbing began below.

The young wife was thrilled as she’d been slightly worried that her husband might not like that she had lost so much weight but he was pawing her no differently than when she’d been “pleasantly plump” as he referred to her whenever she obsessed about being too fat.  As they pulled into the driveway, Gracie’s heart pounded again.  She had another surprise for Daniel but wasn’t sure if he’d last long enough to receive it.  The rich giggle that escaped her then betrayed her thoughts as they got out and Daniel looked at her.

“What?”

She looked at him with a seductive little smile, her body tingling with excitement while her grey eyes twinkled as she replied,

“Nothing dear.”

Daniel laughed and grabbed at her as she hurried past him and she yelped and giggled while trying to open the front door.

“Don’t give me that, what are you up to?”

“You’ll find out,” was all she would say.

He took her hand in his and swept her into his arms, pulling her into a fierce kiss as he kicked the door closed behind him.  Gracie grew giddy and white hot all over and melted into arms, his bulging manhood pulsing against her, and it took everything she had to push him away.

“No no, sweetheart, not yet,” she teased breathlessly, and placed a finger on his lips when he opened his mouth to protest.

Taking his hand she led him into the spacious living room with large windows overlooking the bay and roman style columns.  She had given it a glorious makeover with the extra pay Daniel got from a recent promotion and she took pride in it although at the moment she knew he wasn’t all that interested in the immaculate white couches sitting before their stone fireplace or the plush white rug that replaced the old shag carpeting.  Gracie pushed her husband into a white overstuffed recliner and tapped a couple of buttons on a remote on the fireplace.  Fwoosh! The fireplace roared to life as the new stereo system began to softly play a selection from Sade.

Daniel smiled, his azure eyes displaying a hint of confusion mixed with excitement.

“Wha-?”

“Shh!” she replied as she began to sway back and forth in time to the music.

She turned her back to him, swishing her hips as she slowly lowered the zipper on the back of her dress and looked over her shoulder while slipping the dress off one shoulder, then the other. Once she’d gotten the confidence, she had secretly taken a class and rehearsed this routine over and over to get it just right for today.  Gracie turned to her husband then and let the dress drop to the floor, giddy with pleasure as she saw the ridiculously large grin on his face grow even bigger as he took in her shapely form in nothing but a black lacey peek-a-boo bra and thong contrasting her soft porcelain skin.  Giving him a wink, she slipped the straps off and reached back to undo the clasp before turning her back to him again.  She tossed the bra over one shoulder making sure it would land on Daniel and he picked it up, kissed it and held it out to her as if toasting her with a glass.  Giggling she turned back and ever so slowly bent over and pulled off her thong.  The music changed on cue to a faster beat as she kicked it to one side and planned to really let her husband have it.  She swished over to the nearest pillar and began twirling around it in time to the music.  The moves she did would have made any professional pole dancer proud and her heart leapt as she saw Daniel’s mouth drop in astonishment.  Yes, dear heart, she thought to herself as she really got into the routine, the little wife has been keeping herself busy.

As the song wound down she gave a final twirl and as she came to face Daniel she discovered he was suddenly right there, unable to take anymore.  His face held a wild, animal expression as he pulled her to him, moaning a little as he kissed her hard.  He ran his hands down her back and under her cheeks before lifting her up off the floor.  She wrapped her legs around his waist and groaned as he pushed her up against the column and nibbled on her ear and neck.

“Oh God, Daniel!” she gasped as he entered her.

“Oh baby, I love you so much!” he whispered to her as he gyrated  into her and let his pants drop to the floor.

Her flame built up from deep within and she moaned louder and louder with her head thrown back and eyes closed, feeling one of Daniel’s hands massage her bottom while the other caressed her breasts.  He backed up away from the wall and she leaned back as he kissed and sucked on her breasts before coming to his knees on the soft rug.  Gracie lowered her feet to the floor and pushed her husband on to his back.  As she cradled him, the two of them covered in sweat, her loose hair shimmering in the firelight, she reached down and tore Daniel’s shirt open.

He laughed, once again surprised at her assertiveness, and she leaned down and kissed him roughly.  His hands ran up and down her body with intensity and he moaned as she licked and nibbled his nipples, chest and stomach before she began to ride him.  He pumped into her harder and faster as she rode in time with him until their collective moans and sighs rose up into a tremendous cry.

She lay on top of him and he caressed her hair as their breathing settled.  Out of nowhere Gracie began to sob and Daniel froze.

“Are you alright, honey?” he asked her trying to sit up.

She rolled off him and sat up beside him, wiping the tears from her face and laughing.

“Yes, Danny, I’m sorry.  I’m just so happy!”

“I know darling, I am too.  I’ve wanted to hold you in my arms for so long. I thought this day would never come!” he replied holding her in his embrace again.

The couple lay back down on the soft rug again before the fire and made love three more times as twilight turned to night.

Gracie awoke the next morning and listened to her husband’s heartbeat and steady breathing as she lay across his chest as he slept soundly on the rug.  It had taken her a moment to realize Daniel had in fact returned home, so used to his absence as she was. She rose quietly, slipped on his shirt and padded into the kitchen to make breakfast.  A disturbing thought had occurred to her, one that she had completely forgotten about and didn’t know how to handle it though she thought she would’ve had an answer by now.  Before he left Daniel had expressed interest in starting a family but the idea had always left Gracie cold.  Now that he had returned the concept would surely come up again and try as she might, she really wasn’t comfortable with the thought of having children.

“Hey, don’t burn my bacon,” Daniel joked as he slipped his arms around her waist and kissed her on the neck.

Gracie jumped and moved the pan off the burner.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Of course now that my husband has returned to me,” Gracie replied smiling and putting her arms around him.

Daniel swept his wife up in a long deep kiss until the smell of smoke got their attention.  Gracie turned to discover the charred bacon was now accompanied by crispy cajun style eggs and sighed.

“What would you say to going out for breakfast?” Daniel chuckled.

“Sounds like a good idea to me!”

Upstairs as they were dressing they stopped to make love a few more times before actually getting around to putting clothes on.

“Gracie?”

“Yes?” she replied from the bathroom where she was fixing her hair.

“Now that I’m home have you given any thought to what we talked about before I left?”

She put down the hairbrush and looked at him in the mirror as he sat on the bed.

“You mean about having children?”

“Yes.”

She picked up the brush again and ran it through her hair a few more times before answering,

“To be honest I haven’t really thought about it much lately.”

“Not even while I was gone?”

She turned to face him.

“Of course not I was too busy worrying whether or not I’d ever see you again.”

“Alright, so now that I’m home what do you think?”

She sighed, “Daniel.”

“Ok look,” he interrupted raising his arms, “before I left you said you were too heavy to have a healthy pregnancy.  Now that you’ve lost the weight I know you’re probably concerned about putting the weight back on but baby, don’t you want to have kids with me?”

“I just don’t understand what the rush is, we’re still young, Danny.”

“We are, which means we’ll have the energy to raise them!”

They stood there silently staring at each other as the air filled with tension.  Then Daniel’s expression suddenly softened.

“Is it because of your mother?” he asked.

Gracie was stunned as the words crashed against her and she crumpled on to the bed sobbing.

Gracie and Daniel practically grew up together and he knew her life growing up wasn’t easy.  No, she hadn’t been poor, she grew up in a modest little house with white picket fence and a yard and she’d had her own room.  No, her parents weren’t drunks and nobody had beaten or molested her.  They were a God fearing church going family who lived a quiet, non-eventful life.  While her father was away at the office most of the day her mother played the obedient little housewife cooking and cleaning, hosting cocktail and dinner parties and conducting herself just so.  She was also busy ignoring her daughter.  Gracie never got tucked into bed, never had bedtime stories read to her or kisses good night.  Her scrapes were never soothed or kissed all better, in fact, Gracie’s interactions with her mother were the briefest possible.  It was as if she didn’t exist as a child and as a teenager nothing she did could please her.  It was bad enough that she couldn’t be the happy homemaker but any time she went out whether to study, go to a dance or on a date she was met with accusations of being a whore.  The harsh words out of her mother’s mouth during those days made Gracie long for the days of silence in her childhood and when Daniel had decided to join the military and asked her to run away with him and get married she couldn’t say yes fast enough.  The reason she didn’t want children wasn’t because she didn’t love her husband, he was and always had been her best friend, but because there was a possibility that any children she did have would face the same type of mother.  The woman had no maternal instinct, Gracie was sure of that, and she didn’t know if it was hereditary.

“I just don’t want our kids to go through what I went through,” she sobbed as Daniel held her close.

“I know baby, I know,” he said, “but with the childhood you had wouldn’t that make you more determined not to be the same way with our kids?”

“Of course,” she sniffed, “but what if being cold and cruel is genetic?  You’ve seen my family.”

Daniel lifted Gracie’s chin so she could look at him and smiled,

“Well if it is then it’s surely skipped a generation.  You are the warmest, most loving and most generous person I’ve ever met and always have been.”

He gave her a warm soft lingering kiss on the lips and they stared into each other’s eyes before Gracie gave a deep sigh.

“Besides,” he continued, “I always thought you were adopted or your parents were pod people or something.”

Gracie chuckled, “Sometimes I do too.”

The Ugly Side of Romance Novels

Like many of you, I am very passionate about my reading. I love getting lost in a book and yes when a really good book is at an end I do suddenly feel lost. I also have a nasty habit of bouncing a book off the wall or floor in disgust if it’s badly written or the plot or characters are annoying, make no sense or aggravate the crap out of me. I like searching for bad book reviews (hoping to never receive one myself but I know it will happen some day) because I like knowing what it is that drives other readers bonkers and knowing I’m not the only book throwing fool on the planet!

It seems romance novels are especially ripe with errors so bad they’re almost funny from ridiculous covers to dialogue and descriptions that range from medical textbook terminology to just plain weird. Recently I found some opening lines of romance novels that are just too damn funny not to share:

1. Beatrice was on him like a piranha on a corn dog.
2.…then he kissed her, like a butterfly kisses the windshield of a Porsche on the Autobahn.
3. With his broad shoulders and slim waist, he was a yield sign — yet she could NOT!
4. Her sun-glazed back formed a golden arch as he moved his face toward her happy meal.
5. With each breath, her chest heaved like a bulimic after Thanksgiving dinner.
6. Her embrace made his manhood swell like week-old roadkill on hot asphalt in the Georgia sun.
7. Her petticoats dropped to the ground, rustling like a cockroach in a sugar bowl.

Visuals. You’re doing it wrong!

I’ve also been noticing a couple of trends within the romance genre, and apparently I’m not the only one, that has me a bit disturbed. Now I know that historically there are women who fall for the “bad boy.” I get how alluring a rough and rugged hero that exhibits mystery and danger can be, I really do, but let’s be honest. Most of the actions a hero gets up to in many romance stories, be it book or movie, tiptoe on the line of psycho stalker and would result jail time, accidental death, hospitalization or a restraining order in real life but does the hero really have to be an abusive rapist too? I’m probably going to get a lot of flack about this but I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. When I picked them up in the bookstore to see what the hype was about, well let’s just say I put them back on the shelf after reading a few passages and walked away for the sake of my walls.  These are large and heavy books after all and it would seriously put my spackling skills in question trying to repair that damage! Bypassing the incessant writing style and heroines so insipid and annoying you have to suppress the urge to go Jack Torrance on them (not that they would mind!), the heroes of these stories are complete assholes! Why women are fantasizing about immature possessive misogynists who in real life they would be telling their friends to dump and run I’ll never understand!

That’s right, it’s charming that I break into your house while you’re in the shower after an altercation.

As bad as these books are, they’re spawning even worst copycats where the characters only seem to become meaner, dumber and more clingy and useless with each retelling of the story. Personally, I like my heroes to actually BE heroes! I like to read about a man who, whether he’s a criminal, rake, or is rough around the edges because he’s had a hard life or went through something that royally screwed him up sometime in the past, is able to keep it together and do right by the heroine. My mother was a huge fan of General Hospital when I was a kid and even then I remember and understood her rage at seeing Laura making doe eyes at the man who raped her as she stands across from him AS HIS BRIDE! I’m sorry, I don’t care how sorry the “hero” is for raping the heroine, HEROES DON’T RAPE WOMEN! They just don’t!  Why would I want to read a supposed love story about a rapist and his victim? That’s not romance, it’s Stockholm Syndrome! While I get that the romance genre is about fantasy, I just can’t understand how the depiction of domestic violence and/or a violent act such as rape, which is not an act of love or lust but of power, can be successful fodder for a romance novel or storyline?

Aw, I can still smell the chloroform you used before dragging me into that ditch!

I also like to read about heroines with a bit of sense. Granted in order for the usual instances of miscommunication that tend to spin these stories along to happen at least one or both parties have to be a bit clueless but one thing that drives me insane is when the heroine is dumber than a box of hair and seems completely incapable of staying out of trouble. Sure, having the hero come to the aid of the heroine when her life is in danger is romantic and wonderful and I have absolutely no qualms about that but I once read a book where the heroine had to be rescued ON NEARLY EVERY PAGE! Penelope Pitstop had nothing on this chick! I mean she was either so incredibly stupid that  I was witnessing Darwin’s Theory in action or she had to be doing it on purpose. I never got to find out because that particular book took wing by the fifth calamity. I almost got the feeling that the writer grew to hate the heroine as she wrote the book and just wanted the bitch dead.

Wait.. what?!

Luckily, there are some fantastic romance novels out there written by men and women who get it and I’m starting to be able to figure out which books are worthy of my attention and which books are just a waste of ink! So I save myself some grief and aggravation although once in a blue moon I will purposely search for a groaningly bad novel for a laugh. If you’ve never done this you should. I once picked up a book that looked and sounded just god awful but to my surprise found myself engrossed in a well written story with lovable characters and a villain I loved to hate.

A Dog’s Breakfast

Here is a fun little concept I was playing around with for a flash fiction contest inspired by a conversation I once had with some crazy friends. Enjoy!

G. Christopher Jones

The Keebler County police rolled up in front of their tree on the tidy affluent cul-de-sac that was Breakfast Row at 3am, the flashing lights alerting the neighbors of yet another indiscretion. Crackle and Pop shook their heads sadly as Snap was led away in handcuffs and put into the back of the squad car. He never once raised his head; he wouldn’t look his friends in the eye. He was an old and dear friend with a serious affliction and they tried to be supportive for they loved him truly, but his sickness was beginning to take its toll on them. Sam, Sonny and Trixie had made it abundantly clear that the Krispie Boys were no longer welcome at Poker Night two weeks ago and poor Pop had come home in tears only yesterday when Count Chocula and Frank Berry quickly ushered their children across the street when they saw him coming; whispering and glaring at him as they walked their kids home from school. Crackle had not told the others yet but he had noticed a steady decline in business and even sweet old Aunt Jemima, the one true voice of reason in the community and their source of comfort since all this began, had become stiff and distant as of late. Crackle snorted at the thought of the Count being so selective in who he did and did not keep company with, especially since he himself was just out on bail!

Count Victor Chocula had been arrested at his chalet on Big Rock Candy Mountain only a few weeks ago thanks to the quick work of the Krispie Detective Agency. All had not been sweetness and light at the Chocula Chalet and shortly after Amelia Butterworth had filed a restraining order against the Count, a large shipment of syrup had disappeared from Canadian stores. While the Krispie Boys had felt sorry for the Count being jilted like he was when Amelia had suddenly run off to marry Jimmy Dean of Lick Fork, Virginia after a whirlwind romance, it was no excuse for theft. His heartbreak hadn’t lasted for long however for Jemima had had her eye on Victor for years and, with her sister out of the way, she moved in for the kill! Cornelius Crunch, captain of the police force, was Crackle’s only ally and had enlisted his help on the case.

“The Count has been most uncooperative!” Corny had told him, slamming his hat down on the desk and scrubbing his snowy hair with his large veined hands, “He isn’t saying a word except to insist he’s being profiled because he’s black!”

Crackle sighed inwardly. If he could arrange for the captain to keep from arraigning Snap before he got to the station with the bail money he might be able to keep the story from getting into the press again. Money was tight as it was and one more black eye could kill the agency. Something had to be done about Snap. This type of thing could not go on forever, the man refused to go for help but now it was starting to affect their livelihood and Crackle suspected the strain on poor Pop’s nerves was killing him.

The movement of curtains in a few windows confirmed their neighbors had indeed been watching and Crackle snorted again, holding Pop to him as he trembled. That smarmy Lucky Charms bastard had been waiting for a chance like this to boot him out of his position as President of their HOA for years. Tomorrow promised to be a miserable day indeed.

A Book Review: The Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh

This romance novel, first published in 1996 and now re-released with a second novel, is set in Regency England and features a klutzy but warm hearted young woman named Cora Downes. Not entirely low born, as the daughter of a well off Bristol merchant she barely registers on the radar of the infamous ton until she accidentally rescues the grandson of the Duchess of Bridgewater from drowning. The duchess is so grateful to Cora that she takes her to London as her protege with the intent of marrying her off to a man of high society. Cora’s awkwardness is often remarked upon by her brother with exasperation but when she finds herself surrounded by titles, her clumsiness level ramps up to mach 5 and she finds herself tripping over her own to feet at a ball and landing squarely in the arms of Lord Francis Kneller. Luckily for Cora, Francis is a good friend of the Duke of Bridgewater and had been asked to help make her appear more appealing to her potential suitors. At first Lord Kneller simply finds Cora amusing but eventually that amusement becomes something more.

I won’t give away the whole story but this book wasn’t half bad.  I wasn’t crazy about how ditzy the heroine was but I think explaining it away throughout the book as an abject fear of the aristocracy made it work. Even I was able to forgive poor Cora’s moments of stupidity and you really can’t help but love the woman.  I also wouldn’t have thought of Francis as being the hero but once again, his effeminate nature is addressed throughout the story and my only disappointment was that there weren’t more instances of him showing more of a masculine side, especially when he found out she’d thought he was gay.

Still I found The Famous Heroine to be an enjoyable and satisfying read with humorous and likable characters and I intend to search out more of Mary Balogh’s work.