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The Umbrella Maker’s Daughter by Janet Caird

Do you also like to read something that’s not romance sometimes? Check out Remember That One Book!

Remember That One Book?

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Historical Fiction
Published January 1st 1980 by St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover, 284 pages

In 1832 Mary Tullis and her father, the umbrella-maker, arrive from Glasgow to make a new life in the Scottish town of Dyplin. It will be a hard year for the townsfolk: cholera comes, so do the resurrectionists stealing bodies from their graves. The new young minister is profoundly tested as he falls under the spell of the attractive newcomer. Meg Annan, of the stained reputation, is also in love. But much of the love — and the hate — is misplaced, culminating in the May Burning, in which the tensions of the community are tragically released.

The Umbrella-Maker’s Daughter is the kind of book you happen upon at a yard sale or thrift store that convinces you you’ve found a lost classic. While the synopsis leads one to expect a vaguely gothic historical romance, the book…

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Trigger Warning

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I can’t stop laughing about John Dopp’s Suggested Amazon Warning Labels.

Only I’d call them trigger warnings, because I’ve spotted at least three that make me lose my mind: plot that erodes suspension of disbelief, unrelatable protagonist and books apparently edited by chimpanzees. I won’t provide you with any examples of chimpanzee books, because I never make it past the third page.

I would like to add a few of my own, special to romance, but unfortunately I don’t have the skill to create those little warning signs, so I will just describe them:

  • Heroine dropped into wrong century: I picture a little heroine with a nose ring and tattoos wearing an empire-style gown and carrying a parasol. If the book is a time travel romance — 21st century woman, with all implied attitudes and speech patterns, inexplicably becomes the heroine of a Regency-era story — please tell me.
  • Series-itis warning: a little hero being flogged by tiny books that represent the other books in his book’s series. If the book doesn’t stand alone, please tell me. And if the book should ostensibly stand alone, make appearances/references to characters/plot threads from other books meaningful, or just leave them out.
  • Repetitive description/dialogue: three little heroines joined together, paper doll-style. If characters have the same conversations multiple times, or there are multiple identical descriptions of the hero/heroine’s childhood/home/clothing/ass, please tell me.
  • Copious mental lusting — a little hero with a cloud around his round head and drool coming out his mouth. Please don’t make me say any more about mental lusting. I’m so over it.

That’s all I can think of right now, but I’m sure I will add more from time to time. Which is your favorite? What warnings you wish you could find on books, lovelies?

UPDATE: Look everyone! Valancy at Blue Castle Considerations has made us some warning labels, bless her little heart:

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Valancy, you are a diamond of the first water!


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Wish List Wednesday: The Phantom Lover

 

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Fiery young “Nell” Belden went to Thorndene Castle to escape a lover, not to find one. She was bound by the strict conventions of England’s Regency to a man she could never love, then bound by the ties of passion to a man she could never marry! For at Thorndene, she discovered a new and startling love, a love that was as intense as it was doomed…

“You must leave Thorndene!” said the ghost. Then he added, more gently, “I come to warn you, not to harm you. I may never touch you, any more than a shadow may..”

“What does that signify?” Nell asked. “Since you are dead, you can have no need or inclination to touch me anyway.”

“You can’t know much about men-or ghosts-or how delightful you look in that nightdress, if you believe that,” he said with disturbing sincerity.

Nell blushed and pulled the bedclothes over her. For a long moment, neither of them spoke. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the ghostly figure was gone…

 

You know what’s like Christmas coming early? Finding an out-of-print book that I’ve been searching for for years has come out in e-book! Celebrate with me the reprinting of Elizabeth Mansfield’s 1979 Regency The Phantom Lover.

I’m imagining a sort of Ghost and Mrs. Muir situation, only I’m sure Nell’s ghost will end up being a little more substantial than Mrs. Muir’s.

The Phantom Lover by Elizabeth Mansfield, Open Road Romance, 2015.


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Friday Fun: What I Am Reading Right Now

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Fine. That’s not me. That’s Veronica Lake. But if you think I don’t actually sit around reading in turbans and gaudy jewelry, then you’re wrong, jack. (via tumblr.com)

 

It’s Friday, darlings! That means two whole days when work will not interfere with my reading! So what am I reading?

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I spent most of yesterday evening sitting in a doctor’s office, reading Kathryn Lynn Davis’ Child of Awe in an e-book reprint. First published in 1987, this is an old-fashioned Scottish clans romance saga, and saga it is; I read the equivalent of 40 Kindle pages, and our heroine, Muriella, is still indeed a child. However, she was being abducted by our ostensible hero, John Campbell, just as I was finally called in for my appointment, so there’s hope she’ll make adulthood before I am old enough for Social Security.

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Ouch. I should have warned you to put on sunglasses before taking a look at this 1969 edition of Jane Beaufort’s A Nightingale in the Sycamore.

Virginia dearly loved the Meadow House, which had been left to her by her father along with sundry debts, and it was unthinkable that she should have to sell it. Yet the “sundry debts” looked like making this a necessity… until Fate took a hand. A car accident deposited, practically on her doorstep, a well-known pianist and composer the young and handsome Charles Digby Wickham. For some weeks the charming but temperamental Charles could not be moved, to the annoyance of the young doctor who attended him at Meadow House and who was himself in love with Virginia; but his advent is the turning point in Virginia’s life — both financially and, definitely, romantically!

I actually hunted this one down because I thought I had read it before, only to realize that this plot is eerily similar to a book I love: Carla Kelly’s wonderful Libby’s London Merchant, a Regency nonetheless!

I’ve always said that the Mills & Boon romances of the 1940s-1960s have more in common with historical romance — particularly Traditional Regencies — than with what we think of as contemporary romance, but I never realized the link was that direct.

 

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Yes, yes, I know you don’t come here for non-fiction, but to be perfectly honest, Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven is my first-line read this week.

What will you read this weekend, lovelies?


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The Great Romance Reading Fast of 2015 Ends

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Myrna Loy and baby Shirley Temple wish you Happy New Year!

I, for one, have high hopes for 2016. I went on a romance reading fast for most of 2015; for the first time in my adult life, I went months without reading a single romance of any kind.

So what happened? Nothing, really, except that one after the other, I picked up a whole mess of romances of every genre, length and publication date that just didn’t do it for me. Eventually, I just decided to read in other genres until the mood passed.

In hindsight, I think this fast served as the romance reading equivalent of a palate cleanser; now that I am easing back in to reading romance, I find myself even more discerning about what I read, and in turn, more analytical. Good news if you are the person who likes to write (or read) about romance!

Even better news? As I rejected romances one after the other, I began to notice a pattern emerging of a handful of problems that would make me refuse to finish a book. If that’s not fodder for the mill, er blog, I don’t know what is.

This post does, then, serve as fair warning. Because I am a narcissistic twat  love you and want you to be happy, I’m going to share my revelations with you in occasional “Why I Didn’t Finish the Book” posts. And I hope a few bravest of the brave will chime in with your own stories.

As I have begun to read romance in earnest again, I will also be sharing some reviews. Buckle up, darlings — this is going to be a long, bumpy ride!


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The Reading Challenge Challenge

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward gearing up for a mid-century reading challenge. Photo by Gordon Parks, Getty Images.

I do not need a reading challenge to encourage me to read books. My problem is the opposite — I read so much that dust bunnies become dust rabbits and beget dust bunnies of their own, so much that three days out of five, I can’t leave home without a generous helping of Visine for my weary eyes.

Yet I am intrigued by the idea of reading challenges, if only for my romance reading, because I too often read in the same genres and tropes over and over; my diet of vintage Gothics, antique Harlequins and Traditional Regencies has yet to become stale, but I sometimes wonder what I am missing by not broadening my reading horizons.

Now the reading challenge itself has fallen victim to a trope of my own: indecision. Buy a car, buy a house — I can make major decisions in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Ask me to choose a restaurant, a purse, a new shampoo or a reading challenge, and you’d think the fate of the world lay in the balance.

So here are a few of the 2015 reading challenges I’ve found as I consider this momentous decision. The challenges themselves are endlessly fascinating to me, though I suspect that if I embark on a reading challenge at all, it will be some mish-mash of all these.

Wish me luck and hope that I manage to settle on one before the cows come home in 2016….

15 Flavors: Submitted by PWM in MI to All About Romances’s “The “Official” Fabulous Fifteen Reading Challenge” Discussion Board:

PWM’s reading challenge is based upon the AAR Special Title Listings updated in 2014.

1) Green Romances- Read a romance where the characters care about the environment and are actively engaged in protecting it. (i.e.: conservationists, park rangers, birdwatchers, biologists, architects, scientists, engineers, and green activists.
2) Fairy Tale Romances- Read a romance based the plot of well-known fairy tale.
3) Point of View – Read a novel told primarily through the eye of one narrator, including first-person point of view, romantic diary fiction, or a romance from the male point of view.
4) Rakes & Rogues-Read a romance where the hero is a known rake, a ladies’ man, a bon vivant and possibly a libertine. Or read a romance where the hero is rogue, a scoundrel, a man considered dangerous (perhaps he is a smuggler or is thought to have murdered his first wife), and a man who may be acting outside the law.
5) Adventure Romances-For this list, think Romancing the Stone: Read a romance where love and adventure all mixed up together.
6) Friends in Romance-Read a romance not only focuses on a love story, but also the strong ties of friendship that exist between people. This may take the form of a friendship that leads to romance, or a romance of which a deep friendship is an essential part. It may take the form of strong non-romantic ties to a person of the same sex, or the form of a platonic friendship between a woman and a man.
7) Royalty-Read a romance which includes a lead or integral secondary character who is either real or fictional royalty, meaning them (or their close relatives) rules a state.
Cool Secondary Romances-Read a book that has a strong romance between secondary characters.
9) Held Captive- Read a romance where the heroes and heroines in these books hold each other captive with more than the bonds of love.
10) Amnesia…Or Not?-Read a romance where a character suffers or appears to be suffering from amnesia.
11) Spies, P.I.’s, & Warriors – Read a romance where the hero or heroine is a spy, P.I.’, warrior, cop, or in the armed forces.
12) Imprisoned!-Read a romance that have heroes and heroines who, guilty or innocent, were convicted of a crime or taken prisoner and so spent time imprisoned or exiled. Character my also currently be incarcerated.
13) Best Enemies-Read a romance where the hero and heroine loathe each other.
14) The Limelight-Read a romance featuring heroes or heroines who are in the performing or creative arts, such as actors, singers, artists, best-selling novelists, and dancers.
15) Two-Hanky Reads-Read a romance that have been rumored to make the reader cry, not just a tear or two, but those that tend to be cathartic and intense.
16) War- Read a romance where war is an important factor in the plot. Whether the characters are in battle, on the home front, living in occupied territory, or reliving the war in PTSD, their lives have been permanently altered by the experience of war.
17) Cross-Dressing & In Disguise-Read a romance involving lead characters in disguise, women who dress as men, men who dress as women, and lead characters who ugly themselves up to be unappealing to prospective mates.
18) Perfect First Spouses-Read a romance with a hero or heroine who had “perfect” first relationships. Those relationships may have been in actuality wonderful or merely perceived as wonderful by the new love interest.
19) Young Adult Fiction-Read a y/a novel with strong romantic elements.
20) Pirates, Sheiks & Vikings-Read a romances featuring Pirates, Vikings, and Sheiks.

PWM’s challenge list features several tropes/characters/plots that I tend to avoid (pirates, sheiks, Vikings, perfect first spouses, amnesia). It’s also so very very easy — I can just use the challenge and the AAR Special Title Listings to cross-reference and choose books from time periods/genres I don’t usually tackle. Too easy, probably. 

 

15 Winners: Submitted by Karat to All About Romances’s “The “Official” Fabulous Fifteen Reading Challenge” Discussion Board:

Says Karat: “Since the first AAR Annual Reader Poll in 1997, a total of 15 authors have won the Best Romance/Favorite Romance of the Year award. Read 10, 12 or 15 books written by these authors, or fitting the following criteria:”

1. Suzanne Brockmann
Winner books: Over the Edge (2002*), Out of Control (2003) and Gone Too Far (2004)
Read a book where the hero or heroine is a SEAL / special ops / FBI agent / security specialist, or where there is a secondary romance. Or read a book that finishes a story arc that started in previous books in a series. Or read a romantic suspense.

2. Loretta Chase
Winner books: Mr. Impossible (2006) and Last Night’s Scandal (2011)
Read a book set in Africa or the Middle East, or where the h/h is a scholar, or where the h/h met as children.

3. Joanna Bourne
Winner books: The Spymaster’s Lady (2009) and The Black Hawk (2012)
Read a book set in France, or where the h/h is French, or where the h/h is a spy. Or read a book were the h/h are reunited after some time apart.

4. Mary Jo Putney
Winner book: Shattered Rainbows (1997)
Read a book set during or right after a war, or a book where the h/h is in the military, or where the h/h is injured or ill.

5. Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Winner book: Nobody’s Baby But Mine (1998)
Read a book where the heroine is or gets pregnant, or where the hero and heroine have a child together. Or read a book where the h/h is an athlete or a scientist.

6. Nora Roberts
Winner book: Sea Swept (1999)
Read a book where the h/h is a boat racer, ship captain or is in the Navy. Or read a book where the h/h is a social worker. Or read a book where the h/h suddenly becomes responsible for a child.

7. Robin Schone
Winner book: The Lady’s Tutor (2000)
Read a book where the h/h is a tutor, a teacher, a professor, etc. Or where the h/h speaks one other language besides English, or the h/h was raised in a foreign country.

8. Adele Ashworth
Winner book: Winter Garden (2001)
Read a book set in a coastal town, or a book whose title has the words “winter”, “summer”, “autumn”, or “spring” in the title

9. Jennifer Crusie
Winner book: Bet Me (2005)
Read a book where there is a bet or a dare involved. Or read a romantic comedy.

10. J.R. Ward
Winner book: Lover Awakened (2007)
Read a book with a tortured hero, or a book where the h/h is imprisoned, or the h/h has a twin. Or read a Paranormal book.

11. Jo Goodman
Winner book: If His Kiss Is Wicked (2008**)
Read a book where the h/h is an investigator, or where the h/h is a poor relative, or has to live with an uncle, aunt, cousin, etc. Or read a book where the h/h has amnesia.

12. Elizabeth Hoyt
Winner book: The Serpent Prince (2008**)
Read a book where someone is seeking revenge, where the h/h is a prince/princess, or any other member of the royalty. Or read a book where the chapters have small prefaces (famous literary quotes, fictional journal excerpts, fairy tales, etc)

13. Jennifer Ashley
Winner book: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (2010)
Read a book where the h/h is considered mad, or a book that is part of a series where each book is about a different family member. Or read a book by an author who writes under multiple pen names.

14. Julie Anne Long
Winner book: A Notorious Countess Confesses (2013)
Read a book where the h/h is a member of the church, or where the h/h is a noble.

15. Sherry Thomas
Winner book: The Luckiest Lady in London (2014)
Read a book where the h/h has to marry for money, or the h/h is viewed by society as the ideal gentleman or a perfect lady. Or read a book where the h/h is interested in astronomy.

I find Karat’s challenge interesting, though I would probably go by the alternatives rather than the winning authors/books (yes, I know that I’m supposed to expand my horizons, but I have read a number of the winning books, and of them, only Mary Jo Putney’s Shattered Rainbows would come near to an award with me). 

2015 Monthly Keyword Challenge By Bookmark to Blog

Kim at Bookmark to Blog has several interesting challenges, one of which is the Monthly Keyword Challenge

JAN- Bird, Girl, Ever, Silence, Bad, Truth, End 
FEB- Key, Water, Lie, Chase, Heir, Once 
MAR- Kind, Face, Power, City, Blue, Night, To 
APR- Dream, Prince, Long, Wind, Rose, The, Rock 
MAY- Ash, Road, Thief, Bend, In, Far 
JUN- My, Together, Whisper, Win, Soul, Sleep
JUL- Sun, Unto, Energy, Fate, High, Look
AUG- Fall, Boy, Glass, Heart, Lost, Now
SEP- Color, Touch, Life, Day, How, Sweet
OCT- Ghost, Home, Beach, Away, Test, Number
NOV- Rise, Holiday, And, Little, Call, Dark
DEC- Space, Mirror, Over, Flower, Trap, Cold

According Kim’s instructions, the title you choose does not have to be exact, but can be a variation on one of the keywords.

I would die of dithering. For a foot-dragger like myself, attempting a “keyword challenge” would result in hours spent trawling Amazon and Goodreads for the keywords to no discernible result. 

I’m also little skeptical of this challenge for romance reading, simply because I find that like covers, book titles often have little to do with the books themselves where romance novels are concerned. 

2015 Monthly Motif Challenge By Bookmark to Blog:

Another of Kim’s challenges, the Monthly Motif Challenge: 

JAN Book to Movie or Audio (A book with a movie or audio book version.)
FEB– Award Winner
MAR–  Genre Jumble (A book in a genre that you’ve never tried or are unfamiliar with.) 
APRMystery, Murder, and Mayhem
MAYLibrary Love (A book chosen from your local library’s displays — I love this one, naturally.)
JUN–  Take A Trip (A book set in a different country different or by an author from another country.)
JULStanding Up (A book in which the main character stands up for themselves, stands up against an enemy, or stands up for something they believe in.)
AUG– Alternate Reality (A book set in the future, on another planet/dimension. Dystopian titles also apply.)
SEPFurry Friends (A book with an animal as an important character.)
OCTGoblins, and Ghost, and Ghouls, Oh My!
NOV– An Oldie but a Goodie (A book published prior to or set prior to 2000.)
DEC– That’s a Wrap (Kim’s recommendation is to finish a series or read the next book in an series you never finished; I’d probably just read one of the rare books I did not finish…)
Kim recommends combining the Monthly Motif Challenge with the Keyword Challenge. 

 

PopSugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge:

I don’t know that I have ever dipped my toe into PopSugar, but this infographic showed up in my Tumblr feed, and i thought it was worth including:

 

I think this list could easily be adapted to romance reading, especially if you explode the idea of romance to encompass more than just the romance genre. There are so many “romances” like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Taming of the Shrew that we should have read in school but didn’t, many fictional or non-fictional memoirs that are romantic, and plenty of banned romance novels to choose from. There are even a few Pulitzer’s that feature strong romances; Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (well, that might be a bromance, but what the hell) and The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty come to mind.

So I’m off to ponder the pros and cons of reading challenges. I will likely bury myself in another Mary Burchell or Jane Donnelly M&B while I’m considering it 😉

 

 


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Ringing in the New Year, Randomly

Gratuitous vintage Andy Virgil illustration, just because I can.

Happy New Year already, guys and dolls! I hope all your holidays were spectacular, and that your new year has gotten off to a wonderful start. Sweet Rocket is getting off to a wonderful, if belated start; here are a few newsy-type things I think you’ll enjoy:

Friends + Madeline Baker = Love

Late to the party as always, I’m just now getting back to my blogging chores. So guess what greeted me when I opened my dashboard? Sweet Rocket exploded last week. All without my knowledge.

The reason was, as it often is, totally random: over at BuzzFeed, one Julia Pugachevsky created an, um, interesting quiz about which Friends character one should hook up with.  Said quiz included a link to an image in one of my all-time favorite Sweet Rocket posts, Hideous Romance Novel Covers, the Madeline Baker Edition.  No, that makes no sense to me, but then I don’t ever remember watching Friends (before you toilet paper my house, I’m not a TV watcher, but I did love Seinfeld). Do go over and have a look and help me to understand how Madeline Baker and Friends are related. In the meantime, if a Friends quiz means a wider audience for the understated glory of a Madeline Baker romance novel cover, then carry on, BuzzFeed, carry on!

Open Library Is Exploding, Too — With Vintage Romances!

If you, like me, find that most of your romance reading is of the yellowed and crumbly variety, you’ll swoon when I drop this bomb on you: Open Library seems to be adding more vintage romance and vintage Gothic romance novels every flipping day!  Seriously. I eliminated about 5o percent of the titles on my Amazon Wish List while waiting to exchange two frozen legs of lamb and a huge bag of clean laundry for a vintage Pioneer hi-fi receiver (thank you, Little Brother — when the receiver’s hooked up, you’ll be the first to be blasted with “Jerusalem” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer at 3:00 a.m. Wait for it).

An Assortment of New Links in the Blogroll Awaits You!

Speaking of yellowed and crumbly, I finally got around to updating my dusty Blogroll. I’m criminally lazy sometimes, really. I added a slew of new blogs and websites I thought Sweet Rocket readers might be interested in, but to make things even easier for you, here’s a rundown, in no particular order:

  • Sweet Rocket on Tumblr: Shameless self-promotion, yes, but for your own good, promise. The Sweet Rocket Tumblr is where most of my romance ephemera ends up now, so if you Tumbl, do follow me there. There are a billionty bizarre romance novel covers, strange love letters, weird love songs and other romantic oddities for your enjoyment.
  • Miss Bates Reads Romance: There is something infinitely pleasing about finding another person who loves to read what you love to read, and it’s pleasure ten-fold when that person writes about the books, and writes about them so well. Only a curmudgeon wouldn’t love Miss Bates’ reviews.
  • Eight Ladies Writing:  Reading about writers and writing makes one a better reader. The ladies at Eight Ladies Writing will inspire you if you aspire to write romance, or if you just love to read romance and enjoy a window into the creation of romance novels.
  • The Regency Redingote: My love for all things Regency is well-documented; reading The Regency Redingote makes reading the Regency a richer experience. So much Regency-era history and ephemera, sigh… I can waste hours on this blog.
  • Book’d Out: Shelley Rae (I hope I got the name right) at Book’d Out reads a dizzying array of books. She’s an Australian book blogger, and I like seeing what readers around the world are reading.
  • Shallowreader: Shallowreader is a very special romance reader: a librarian! Another Australian blogger, Shallowreader reads and writes about more than just romance. I enjoy her insights into reading as a librarian and her reviews.
  • SB James, Doing the Write Thing: Again, I love reading writers on writing, and SB James writes from a perspective that romance readers, especially, can appreciate: that of a self-published writer.
  • A Writer Afoot: Barbara Samuel (aka Ruth Wind) is one of my all-time favorite writers of Harlequin/Silhouette titles, and I also love her historicals and single-title romances. Her writer’s blog is inspirational and aspirational.
  • Amanda DeWees: Maybe I fibbed when I said there was no certain order to this list. I added Amanda DeWees’ site because it’s gorgeous, and for another reason you’ll have to read on to discover…

Upcoming Reviews!

I am making myself accountable to you, dear readers, this year: if I promise you I am going to review more books, I hope some of you will send me nasty messages if I fail to do so. I’ve got a backlog of vintage Harlequin, historical, and Gothic romances I need to work through, but I’m going to start by reviewing Amanda DeWees’ Nocturne For a Widow, which I posted a teaser for back in the good old days of 2014. Look for that review this week. As for the rest, I entreat you: don’t let me be lazy.

Happy 2015!