Book Addiction

Alexa Day Gets Medieval … Right After She Gets Victorian

Last week, I showed you a picture of the Big Bag of Historical Romances that I won at a drawing at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I arranged them in chronological order – because I am a dork like that, my friends – and now they’re stacked next to my TV, with Patricia Phillips on the top, waiting to take me to Wales in 1401. All I have to do is get out of Victorian England first.

Six weeks ago, none of this was my thing.

My mom gave me a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower a few Christmases ago, but that was mostly because she felt The Time Had Come To Give This Heirloom To Her Daughter. Then I won another Woodiwiss at a Romanticon giveaway – Joey W. Hill said it was on her keeper shelf, and I won it at a giveaway. Still, I only had a couple of historicals on my own shelves. I didn’t think I had much in common with the heroines, and when black characters did appear, they occupied the periphery of the story, which infuriates me, as you know.

But then – Festival magic!

To help out with the Virginia Romance Writers social media push in advance of the Festival, I got cozy with some historical fiction. I’d seen Deanna Raybourn at a VRW presentation some time ago, and so I tried the first of her Lady Julia Grey series, Silent in the Grave, in preparation for her Festival panel. She had me at the first page – she gets a lot of people like that – but what kept me going was the discovery that Lady Julia and I have a lot in common after all.

We both have large families, often charitably described as eccentric and unpredictable, who will go right to the wall for each other. We both enjoy our independence, although I have an easier time asserting mine than she does. Neither of us could have said no to the raven.

And so once I felt comfortable with Lady Julia, I could get comfortable within her story.

Tasha Alexander’s And Only to Deceive took me on a similar journey. The heroine reminded me of my childhood study of Latin and Greek classics, and from there, it was easy to get into the rest of the story.

Of course, having a rich “rest of the story” helps. Both Raybourn and Alexander present historical mysteries, and the romances that lie in the background are complicated. Alexander’s heroine never really got to know her husband. Raybourn’s didn’t know hers as well as she thought. Both situations make for tempting reads, against any backdrop.

Could it be that I was open to historical romances? Had I written off those heroines of the past too quickly? Was I missing out on other hot heroes and exotic settings?

I’d only started to explore these questions when I won the bag of books. Feels like a sign, right?

So here’s the reading list for my hot history course.

  • The Constant Flame, Patricia Phillips
  • The Laird of Stonehaven, Connie Mason
  • The Conquest, Jude Deveraux
  • Catriona, Jeanette Baker
  • Believe, Victoria Alexander
  • Defy the Storm, Kate O’Donnell
  • A Season Beyond a Kiss, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss (it’s a sequel to The Flame and the Flower, so that comes first)
  • Merely the Groom, Rebecca Hagan Lee
  • Kiss Me Annabel, Eloisa James
  • The Italian, Elaine Coffman
  • Every Wish Fulfilled, Samantha James
  • The Glass Slipper, Linda O. Johnston – a contemporary disguised as a historical

I’ll keep you all posted as to my progress (including how the hell I plan to write a book with all this reading). This might be the only vacation I get to take this year, but I’ll send lots of postcards!

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My Heart Belongs to Paper … but the Kindle is Pretty Awesome

This Christmas, Mom and I elected to join the 21st century, already in progress. We got each other Kindles. We do not need to do anything on the Kindle other than read, so we got the little one with the ads. We are both hard-core book addicts. Mom started me using when I was just a kid, and now I’m trying to make my own in my house after work. We do not see how ads for other books presented on a reading device could possibly be a problem. Seriously, if you were smoking crack, and in between rocks, your pipe lit up with ads for discounts on more crack, would you ever complain about that?

I’m digressing a little. But let me just say, at the outset, that I will probably always prefer the paper book.

I’m kind of old school in this regard. I like the weight of the paper book. I like the feel of the pages. Deckled edges? Oh, yes, please! Marbled endpapers? Indeed! And the spines on the shelf! My ex gave me a three-volume definitive Sherlock Holmes set (with annotations!) that just … reassures me when I look at it. When Ray Bradbury died, I held my autographed copy of Green Shadows, White Whale and thought of his hand on the page as he signed it. I first perused Reclaiming History just because it was a hefty, hefty tome, but I bought it for the promise of reading Bugliosi on the Kennedy assassination. Sixteen hundred glorious pages, plus so many notes he had to put them on a CD-ROM. I’m drooling a little just writing about it.

I said I was addicted.

The argument for the Kindle and its ilk with regard to my chosen genre is a powerful one. Some people evidently take issue with being seen in public reading erotica. I understand. I do! I just don’t have that problem.

One night I took my copy of Fortytude to a bar and met a good-looking soldier who was also celebrating a milestone birthday – his 30th. I met a handsome intellectual who saw me reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses on the bus. The paper book shows the world not only that I do read, but it shows the world what I read, and therefore just a bit of who I am. It’s like a nametag. I personally would not have minded showing the world that I am reading Held Captive by the Cavemen. That doesn’t trouble me at all. If it troubles those sheltered souls sitting nearby, then maybe they should look into minding their own business.

But one cannot purchase a paper copy of Held Captive by the Cavemen. If one has a Kindle, though, one can have it all ready to go in less than a minute. I think it took me three clicks to put it on the machine, and now it’s waiting for me. (I need to hurry this post along, actually, so I can start reading it.)

Then I started poking around, looking for other stuff to buy. This is where the Kindle gets dangerous. Scoring a paper book takes a little effort. Hardback? Paperback? Don’t even start me on the shipping. The Kindle takes you from whim to purchase in just seconds. And so, when I found Dirty for the Kindle for just a couple of bucks, I went for it. I love Megan Hart’s work – the world she creates would be very cool to live in, even without the sex … but then there’s sex in it. A win-win if I ever saw one.

This time it only took one click. Very nice.

There’s a lot to like about the Kindle, to be sure. It’s tiny but strong. It’s discreet. It’s fast. It’s not terribly expensive. And if I’m going to be working in the realm of e-publishing – and interracial erotica all but guarantees that – I need to get comfortable with all these advantages.

The paper book is my first love, though. I will probably end up being the little old lady sitting on the park bench with a paper copy of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. Over on the bench next to me, a mother will tell her little boy, “See, Jimmy? That lady has a paper book. Long ago, you could only get books on paper.”

And Jimmy’s going to say, “I thought they all came on rocks way back then!”

And then the little wise-ass and his mom are going to laugh. But I won’t care.

I will be too busy stealing glances over my book at that shirts vs. skins touch football game. Those guys won’t notice. The Jane Austen makes me look harmless.

You can’t do that with a Kindle. Can you?