Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Secret Life of Lady Julia Blog Tour: Review + Guest Post

Welcome to my post for The Secret Life of Lady Julia release tour! I have a review of this fantastic book coming up, as well as a guest post from the author. But, first, allow me to introduce the book:

The Secret Life of Lady JuliaLady Julia Leighton—an unrivaled beauty of the ton—spends almost the entirety of her betrothal ball being politely ignored by her erstwhile fiancĂ© (dubbed “Dull Duke David”). The evening is saved by the appearance of a handsome stranger with eyes only for her, and the heady mixture of champagne and experimental kisses leads to a seduction born of a desire to feel something extraordinary.

This stranger is not what he seems, however, and he comes away from the Leighton ball having stolen the bride-to-be’s virtue—and her love—where he meant only to take her diamond encrusted tiara. Disowned by his brother for rakish behavior, Thomas makes his way in the world by seducing rich women and stealing their jewels, but for the first time, he’s the victim of theft as it becomes evident that Julia has stolen his heart. He leaves for Paris the day the Napoleonic wars officially end, both to find richer pastures and to try and forget Julia.

When their paths cross again at a peace conference, they are both in very different circumstances. Julia, now an unofficial spy in the British delegation, is unintentionally collecting the hearts of her countrymen—all the while keeping the object of her affections a wellguarded secret. But when a twist of fate brings these two former lovers together, will the past threaten to overtake their rekindled affection?

My Rating: 4.5 Roses
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Think of the vibrant city of Vienna, in a time of luxury, political conflict, and tenuous peace, full of the most important political figures at the time. That is where we find ourselves in this wonderfully unique historical romance. Put all that together, add a touch of scandal and romance, and we have ourselves a fantastic read.

I loved the setting for this book. It's one thing to say a book is set somewhere, but another thing entirely to make the reader feel as if they are there. And, that's what this book accomplished. I felt surrounded by the opulence and the political intrigue. So, kudos to the author for accomplishing htat.

Julia was not a typical historical romance heroine. She was thoroughly ruined and has been utterly cast out by society. But, she survived it all and still managed to thrive. I appreciated that she didn't play the victim in her ruination. She wanted that one moment as much of Thomas did, took the blame that she was due, and she refused to regret it. She was a great heroine, truly likable.

Thomas was stuck in a bad situation. Disowned by his brother for something he didn't do, he's been penniless and relying on thievery just to get by. But, despite his unfortunate profession, he was still a gentleman at heart. He hated having to steal but was pragmatic enough to know that it was necessary. But. like Julia, he refused to feel sorry for himself. With both characters, they picked up the pieces of their ruined lives and moved on. At his heart, Thomas was a good man and a total sweetie. He was clever, sweet, and determined to do what was best for the woman he loved. Definitely a great hero.

The romance in this book was okay. I liked the development and how both characters immediately knew that there was something special between them. I just wish that they had been reunited sooner. After the events of the scandal were played out, it took a while for Julia and Thomas to meet again. But, otherwise, they were a great couple. The passion between them was very hot and they had a sweet side to their relationship that made me smile. 

The plot was well paced. I was hooked throughout the entire story. There were a few surprises in store and a ton of thrills from the political happenings. And the ending was perfect for the characters, who got their fresh start.

The Secret Life of Lady Julia was a wonderful read! Historical romance lovers, if you're looking for something unique, this is your book.

*Thanks to Avon Books for a copy!
Guest Post:
Lecia Cornwall

Lecia Cornwall is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America’s Seattle and Calgary Chapters. Her background includes all facets of writing, including running a successful freelance writing business specializing in direct marketing and advertising. Both history and writing have been lifelong passions. Lecia currently lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta, the heart of the Canadian West.

Why I Write Historical Romance

I have always been a writer. My favorite classes in school included reading and writing stories. I also loved history—especially English history after I fell in love with “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” on Masterpiece Theater when I was ten (yes, I was that kid in school, the one who always had a novel hidden behind her math book. I still can’t count). After seeing the TV series, I read everything I could get my hands on about Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I. Then I moved on to the Plantagenets, King Arthur, the Wars of The Roses, and so on. I loved fairy tales, too—the ones where the valiant hero must face trials and dangers to win the hand of the king’s youngest daughter.

When I grew up, I still wrote—but now it was advertising copy, direct marketing (for insurance products, no less!), and fundraising letters. I even tried my hand at technical writing in the family business, though not very successfully, before I decided the time had come at last to try and write a novel.

But what to write was the question. I’d written a few stories for my own children, and I’d penned terrible angst-filled poetry in high school. I decided that whatever I wrote, it had to include my passions for history and great stories. 

I chose historical romance because there’s more flexibility with fictional characters than there is with the real historical figures that characterize straight historical fiction. Historical romances are still set in real historical time periods, with authentic details, but within that world is a new story that’s never been told before. Here’s what I mean—readers who pick up a work of historical fiction about Anne Boleyn still expect the story to follow the true, historically documented facts about her. If there are surprises in the plot, it’s usually secondary characters living them. So why not make Anne the background character, and tell another story?

Romance is about how characters change and grow and fall in love. There are conflicts, plot twists, secrets, sex, and finally, a satisfying emotional conclusion. Yes, just like Anne Boleyn’s story, you know how a romance novel will end, but it’s the story along the way that counts—that’s what’s fresh and new. For me, bringing historical and emotional elements together creates a satisfying experience I hope my readers share.

I love doing the research for each book. My plots always include a real historical event. A writer must do far more historical research than actually appears in any novel—after all, a reader wants a story set in a world they can feel part of, not a history lesson. Because the characters are fictional, their reactions to historic events can be entirely their own—perhaps what you or I might have done if we’d been at a particular ball, or the Battle of Waterloo.

I write Regency-set romances because this time period has everything a writer could want. The Napoleonic war was raging in Europe—so good for creating drama, spies, brave soldiers, and danger. There was a mad king on the English throne, and his son was also a bit of a twit, but that’s good for gossip, humor, and social
interest. New technologies were emerging, along with great advances in science and philosophy to potentially hang a plot on or build a character around. It was an opulent age of extreme wealth and privilege with incredibly strict rules for behavior, inheritance, and etiquette—which must all be navigated by our plucky heroine on her journey to true love.

Setting a story in the midst of all that is both a challenge and a pleasure. The heroine of The Secret Life of Lady Julia leaves England in 1814 for Vienna, where one of the most unique peace conferences in history is taking place at the end of twenty years of the Napoleonic wars. Crowned heads from the Tsar of Russia to Marie Louise, Napoleon’s Empress, are in Vienna, along with hundreds of diplomats, spies, social luminaries, and hangers-on. They hunted, danced, argued, spied, had torrid affairs, and even got around to discussing peace once in a while. But six months after it began, the congress ended when Napoleon escaped from exile on Elba and started the war all over again. With the lovely city of Vienna as such an intriguing setting, I couldn’t resist setting a story there. I loved researching this book. I usually don’t include real historical characters in my stories, but in this case, several of the secondary characters are based on real people, all fascinating. I hope I’ve done them justice.

And Julia? She appeared in How To Deceive A Duke (2012), a ruined lady. I wondered what a woman in her position might do to make her way in the world once her family disowned her, and society turned its back on her. I imagined how she’d build a new life in spite of the repressive social mores of the time, and the
limited opportunities open to her—and because it’s a romance, how she’ll find love amid the secrets, scandals, and temptations of her new life. True love, history, and a fairy tale where the hero wins the princess—that’s why I write historical romance.

Happy Reading!

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