Thursday, November 26, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Very Merry Torontonian Sherlockian Murdoch Tea-filled Christmas

*Contest runs Dec 1-6*
heart emoticon read a Singular and Whimsical Problem (available at all online major retailers) or pretend to read it. Whatever. You are still eligible as LONG AS YOU LEAVE AN ONLINE REVIEW
heart emoticon leave a review on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks (through Apple iTunes) ... the retailer of your choice between Dec 1-6
heart emoticon take a screenshot or capture of said review (it doesn't have to be a good review or a deep review. It could be "The Chipmunks are better sleuths")
heart emoticon send proof of your review to getrachel [at] gmail [dot] com
heart emoticon be entered in a DRAW!
heart emoticon WIN:
-a signed copy of The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder upon its release in March 2016
-The David's Tea Christmas Collection 2015
-a replica print of a Sidney Paget illustration from the original Sherlock Holmes serials in the The Strand Magazine
-a TV tie-in copy of "Night's Child" by Maureen Jennings featuring Toronto's best and brightest Victorian detective
-my undying love ( oh heck, kids, you had that anyways!)

Contest open to residents of Canada and the U.S. only
Winner will be announced December 8

A Singular and Whimsical Problem releases Dec 1 


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Spotlight: A Talent for Trickery

I have been insanely busy of late. It's the whole "you're a writer and a career girl thing" and my reading has been sliding. As such, I haven't even finished this delightful book but I am loving it so far and I know you will, too!

Indeed, our friend Serena Chase ( who has impeccable taste) listed it as one of her must-reads on USA Today's HEA 

The Lady is a Thief

Years ago, Owen Renderwell earned acclaim-and a title-for the dashing rescue of a kidnapped duchess. But only a select few knew that Scotland Yard's most famous detective was working alongside London's most infamous thief...and his criminally brilliant daughter, Charlotte Walker.

Lottie was like no other woman in Victorian England. She challenged him. She dazzled him. She questioned everything he believed and everything he was, and he has never wanted anyone more. And then he lost her.

Now a private detective on the trail of a murderer, Owen has stormed back into Lottie's life. She knows that no matter what they may pretend, he will always be a man of the law and she a criminal. Yet whenever he's near, Owen has a way of making things complicated...and long for a future that can never be theirs.

There's also a sneak peek of the book ( and its sparkling narrative) on Harlequin Junkie 

Please visit Alissa Johnson

While I received a copy for review purposes from Sourcebooks, the book itself is less than the price of a gingerbread latte on kindle so snap it up.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Christmas Giveaway and a chance to win 'A Singular and Whimsical Problem'

First off,  excited that A Singular and Whimsical Problem is up for pre-order on Amazon!  It is e-only with links for kobo, nook and ibooks coming shortly. It will show up on your kindle Dec 1

it's super cheap so go forth and get it. It's just a slight little novella-sized Christmas confection but you do get to meet Jem and Merinda and Jasper and Ray!

Secondly, a bunch of awesome authors have pooled together for a cool Christmas Giveaway. You could win all of the books listed below (for me: a digital copy of Singular and Whimsical Problem and a print copy of Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder upon its release) as well as a cozy fireplace heater. I have one in my little apartment and there is nothing better in the world!

Sending you over to Amanda Dykes' website to enter so you can check out her awesome blog and learn more about Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale--- one of my favourite reads of last year )

Cynthia Ruchti (novella, An Endless Christmas), Katie Ganshert (Amish Christmas at North Star), Michelle Ule (The 12 Brides of Christmas), Kathy Ide (21 Days of Christmas)Rachel McMillan (A Singular and Whimsical Problem), Melissa Tagg (One Enchanted Christmas), and Amanda Dykes (Bespoke: a Tiny Christmas Tale). 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Theatre Thursday: 3 Reasons why 'The Proposal/The Night Was Alive' from 'Titanic' is the smartest duet in the Broadway canon

Last night, Kat sent me this amazing youtube performance ( I mean everything is perfect: the piano accompaniment, the voices, the duet)  and it had me (again) thinking about how much I love the musical 'Titanic.'   I repeat, this show has nothing to do with the stupid movie and it has one of the most moving and ingenious broadway scores I have ever heard.

I saw it 3 times in Toronto this past Spring and saw James Hume ( one of the fellows here, singing the part of Bride) as Etches. His voice is magnificent.

You also really need to hear the song with full orchestration, 

Here's why this song leapt into my top 3 broadway songs of all time when I first heard it:

1   1.) It is an interesting and unexpected duet: composer and lyricist  Maury Yeston said that he divided the story into groups of three ---2.) three love stories from across the classes b.) the builder, the owner and the captain of the ship c.) three men who knew that something was amiss:   Barrett the stoker knows that the speed they are going is ridiculous, Fleet, the lookout, has no binoculars and no moon to guide him, Bride cannot get ahold of anyone when he sends his SOS signal.   Unlike other popular male duets in the Broadway canon (think of Confrontation in Les Miserables), this doesn’t drive the plot forward in a blatant way, rather serves as a portentous moment threaded with melancholic music and positioned in a somewhat humorous moment.

     2.)The tune is at once wistful and whimsical( an almost impossible counterbalance) and excessively listenable: layering an interesting counterpart of foreshadow and temporary bond.   It uses its funny onomatopoeia but its undercut by a severe melancholy: most apparent in the orchestration which occasionally sits high and yearning octave above the musical line Bride is singing. The telegram that Barrett sends to his love ( inspired by a real one ) will be his last connection to her while the thousand voices that Bride relies on to assuage his feelings of loneliness will be silent when he needs them most and then transposed, at the end, to exemplify the football stadium of wails as passengers drowned.  

            3.) It follows a song of major exposition ( a dinner table sequence that posits information on the date and the speed of the ship )where most people might put a love duet:  Any other composer would have used this moment, I think, to focus on young Katie and Jim Farrell: a typical musical theatre love story. Instead, Yeston gives the second class married couple a duet ( in another interview he said that this is merely because the spoken dialogue he had for them was not loud enough to cover the sound of a mechanical elevator needed in the original stage production) and the Isidor and Ida Strauss a duet. Neither is predictable. In this moment, he tells a different love story: Bride loves his friggin telegraph and Barrett years for Darlene.  Most of the romance duets are interspersed into large, layered chorus numbers

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Theatre Weekend in NYC !

Oh fair blog, I have deserted you.

A rachel in times square 

But, I did want to touch base about my amazing Broadway weekend.  What is a broadway weekend, you might ask?  Well, it’s when you go to New York City ,stay at a hotel just off Times Square and see a bunch of theatre.

My friends and I met in NYC on a Friday morning. Went to the Strand bookstore and then commenced a theatre weekend.

I saw Amazing Grace Friday Night

Tosca at the MET on Saturday afternoon, the King and I at the Lincoln Centre Saturday night

Daddy Long Legs Sunday afternoon

The Fantasticks Sunday night .

L: Lincoln Centre R: The STRAND BOOKSTORE

The great thing about this weekend was that the theatre was varied!  An opera, 2 off-broadway shows presented in intimate spaces and two big budget musicals.   

And what about these shows?

Amazing Grace is a passion project  and as a long time student of hymnody and the history of the great hymnists it was a must see for me. It was closing weekend for the show and the cast was had some of the best voices I have ever heard on stage.   While the story of John Newton is a fabulous subject, I couldn’t help but think that the musical would’ve been even better had it had a more competent score and stronger lyrics.  The staging ( including one impressive shipwreck scene ) transported you back to 18th Century England.   A nod to the musical’s focus on Mary Catlett who really is in a wonderful and unexpected way, the heart of the story.
Broadway night L: with Sonja at AG!

Tosca was an exercise in marathon singing featuring some of the world’s most renowned operatic voices.  Puccini is all romance: swooping and sighing and long recitatives and the MET auditorium and its almost ethereal acoustics was the perfect house for this epic exercise in song.  While opera is not my favourite medium, I loved the experience.

The King and I had some of the best staging I have ever seen for a musical.  As Anna and her young son arrive in 19th Century Siam, their boat steers a clear path, overtaking the stage and covering the orchestra pit underneath. The dancing, singing, choreography and magnificently buoyant and intelligent Kelli O’Hara gave this classic musical a modern and feminist slant.  I really appreciated seeing it anew.

Daddy Long Legs was my favourite show of the weekend.  It is a chamber musical playing off-broadway and based very closely on the epistolary novel by Jean Webster. I was familiar with the concept recording which I have been listening to non-stop and was delighted to hear that most of the music had been preserved in the broadway production.  A cast recording featuring the actor and actress we saw will release next week.   It is just a perfect musical. Basically tailor-made for Rachel.  Sweet and scholarly with dollops of literary infusion and a really careful and smart romance. I loved the writer heroine and the kuntsleroman sentiments and I loved the clever way they interwove Jervis’ reactions to her beguiling letters.   This musical is a kind, small world of its own with fantastic singing, perfect staging, a charming book-filled set and nuanced humour.  It really is the coziest cashmere way to spend an afternoon at the theatre.
a rachel at lincoln centre

The Fantasticks was a show that everyone knows and it is a staple of musical theatre but that I was pretty much unfamiliar with. A sparkling, well-sung allegory, it reminded me of the vaudevillian tropes of old: paper moons and streamers, hats and a mime, a magical trunk that provided all of the props and costumes needed to collectively imagine the myth of Pyramis and Thisbe with a sometimes mournful, always light and airy musical score.

A perfect little confection with plenty laugh-out-loud moments

Friday, October 16, 2015


Guys my reading life right now is basically confined to my subway commute to work and lunch breaks.

I have a deadline November 1 and 1 on Dec 1 so my entire life is writing. Well, also it was thanksgiving last weekend and also the Blue Jays are doing really well. So there *is* some baseball in it.

A man should know when there's a woman in the room

I have never met a girl (including myself) who did not long to be beautiful, who did not pray for her potential to reveal itself. When a girl is beautiful she gets to pick--- she never has to wait for someone to choose her. There is so much power in doing the choosing

Time stops when we get what we want

"Somebody! Wake up, Buster, I'm not the type of woman for a "somebody"

I am watching something perfect and beautiful and I am not a part of it 

Women love with their ears and men with their eyes

I don't know what Jack is seeing when he looks at me. I'm not particularly special and to me lucky is special.

It isn't funny to play on a woman's station in life. As though she is somehow responsible for being married or being alone! Sometimes things happen in life, the pieces move around so that the game can't go your way

Getting married--is that happiness? Or is it just a container to keep happiness in?

When all is said and done he is still a man and men just don't understand.

This week at the recommendation of a friend who saw the film ( that is NOT playing ANYWHERE in Canada. weird) I read Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap.  It immediately reminded me of Billie Letts and I quite enjoyed the quirky characters inhabiting the eponymous town in the late 70s.

I very much identified with our narrator and local pharmacist Ave Maria Mulligan who feels that something is about to happen before her 36 birthday.  Ave Maria is very much the town spinster but also very much torn between her past and her identity as a foreigner (her mother emigrated from Italy and worked as the town seamstress for years) and her identity as a woman who just cannot seem to speak the language of men.

The men in her life include the charming and gentlemanly town residents: the brothers who run her odd jobs, Spec who works Red Cross duty, a reverend who preaches fire and brimstone with the aid of threatening live snakes and her best friend Theodore Tipton.

There is also Jack Mac, a local miner who is exactly Ave Maria's age and just as single.  

This is a quiet book. A book to sink into . Luckily for me, there are several sequels.  

Why must I still see myself in competition with him? Shouldn't I be content to be a wife and mother? (No, Molly, blame Daniel)

Why couldn't a woman likewise do what she loved and had a talent for? Why did we all have to accept that our lot was to be wives and mothers and to want nothing more?
I also read The Edge of Dreams, the most recent Molly Murphy mystery. I love Molly Murphy and I am especially interested in how Bowen toys with the powerplay between the smart and feisty Molly now that she is a wife and mother in a time where women were shrouded in domestic expectations.   Daniel Sullivan, her husband,  Police Captain and staunch traditionalist is problematic for me.... but realistically so.  Let's face it, Daniel hasn't been a swoon worthy hero from the start and that is part of why I like this series.  If he were dashing and perfect the series would experience a different timbre, Molly would not be able to assert herself as the more intelligent of the two and things would wade deep in cliches.   As per always, Molly's lesbian neighbours Sid and Gus are delightfully suffragette and Bohemian and she sneaks over the street in Patchen Place, baby in tow despite the raised eyebrows of Daniel and her mother in law.

Daniel needs to get it together though. He wants so much for Molly to fit the bill as an officer's wife and a champion of the society he is a part of but he clearly didn't marry a woman who fit that mold.  And why would he? It was always Molly's spark and spirit that allured him.  Right now, the reader has to muddle through a Daniel in transition realizing that while surfacely he wants a pitch perfect Molly,a part deep down inside of him desperately wanted to marry the smart fiery investigator who can match his wits and beat him at his own game.  Hurry up, Daniel. You're starting to make me yell at you.

A gentleman must always be so well dressed that his clothes are never observed at all.

I then read House of Thieves by Charles Balfour which was a fast historical fiction about an architect who is pulled into organized crime to pay off his son's gambling debts. While I felt the prose a tad too light and breezy for the subject matter and historical setting, I much appreciated stealing into New York on the brink: a shrine of rich and affluent people, the gangs interwoven, tightening like tangled wires and slowly undercutting the wealthy class.

The Necropolis Railway, railway of the dead. Surely, Florence McCleland thought, there was no better place to plant a bomb.

I also read the Insanity of Murder: the most recent installment in the Dody McCleland series by Felicity Young. I love powerful women doing men's jobs and of course Dody fits the bill.    Dody is a doctor with a penchant for being able to stomach gruesome medical crises. In this case, crime hits close to home as she worries for her suffragette sister.  She also confronts her palpable attraction and love for Investigator Matthew Pike.

I love mysteries with strong women and an undercurrent of romance and I confess that this was the first in the series I had read ( thanks, Netgalley and Harper Collins). I look forward to going back and reading the others that I purchased after my enjoyment of this one :)

Friday, September 25, 2015


you guys have to forgive me

1.) I had an editorial deadline
2.) during the busiest few weeks of my work year
3.) then I went to San Antonio!  and Dallas!

But I have also been reading! mostly on the subway and at lunch breaks


The Martian by Andy Weir:  this book was fast-paced, hilarious and something I wouldn't usually read. But, I saw the film at TIFF and the narrative was so warm and engaging and I read that it was a close adaptation of the novel.  Really engaging and one of the most unique narrative journeys I have had.  Regardless of setting or world, that is really something that every author strives for.

Season of Salt and Honey Hannah Tunnicliffe This is a quiet, ruminative piece laced with recipes and melancholy.  The prose is lyrical and slow moving but very atmospheric.  A touch of Sarah Addison Allen with the careful plotting of De Los Santos, this is a trajectory of grief with just the right amount of hope  (Thanks, Netgalley)

The Mistress of Tall Acre: Laura Frantz creates a compelling world set in post-revolutionary America with a gorgeous love story borne of convenience and riddled with the past.   Frantz is in her niche here, exploring the fortitude of the early country and drawing on her vast historical knowledge.   I invested in this relationship 110% (Thanks, Netgalley)

What to Do with a Duke: Sally Mackenzie  This was a clever, crafty regency with a spirited heroine and a dishy hero both blessed with the gift of banter. There is a fairytale element to it which really captured me and there is a hefty bit of the spirit of Heyer's Venetia (thanks, Netgalley)

White Collar Girl: Renee Rosen   Did you like The Best of Everything? you're welcome
(thanks, Netgalley)

The Replacement Wife: Rowena Wiseman   Did you like The Rosie Project? You're welcome.

i had always wanted to go to the ALAMO! and here i am! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Truth Be Told

Let's get one thing out of the way, I don't care about the plot of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. The POstables could be returning a stuffed kitten to a toddler and the biggest mystery could be regarding loss of lunch money and I wouldn't care.

SSD works because it recognizes what it is: a heart-felt and genuine character-driven show.  I am a character-driven person. It's how I choose what books to read, it's how I choose what books to write.  Thus, I will never pitch this cozy Hallmark series to anyone for its fast-plot or intricate mysteries.

SSD is a well-painted world crafted with an ensemble of the most likeable people you will find on television.

Here, two mysteries occupy the characters at the Dead Letter Office.  First, a burned and nearly unrecognizable letter that could be from anyone addressed to anywhere ( it ends up having to do with a now-teenaged daughter of an Iraqi war heroine). The second, the re-appearance of Oliver O'Toole's estranged father and his very-near-after reported death.

The central characters meet each mystery head-on while grappling with their personal feelings.  There are lovely moments between Norman and Rita who, if you remember, finally had a first kiss and finally revealed their feelings for each other in SSD: From Paris with Love.  There are heart-wrenchingly fuzzy and warm scenes between gorgeous Shane and Oliver.  We last left them on a porch swing at her house and lovely old-fashioned Oliver just can't get around to throwing his arms around her and finally telling her she makes his world orbit!

GAH! So wonderful.

copyright : hallmark 

Signed Sealed Delivered  is my happy place. I literally cannot have a bad thought or worry running through my head as I step into its world for a well-deserved hour and a half.  It is expert characterization with solid morality and is underpinned by a strong Christian worldview that is quite blatant by today's standards.

And I am going to marry Oliver O'Toole. He is my perfect man.  I have said it before, I have said it again, he basically waltzed--suspenders, arm-bands and all, into my life with his antique letter openers and old-fashioned chivalry.

be mine, Oliver

My thanks to our friends at Grace Hill Media for providing this Canadian with a screening copy ( because they don't show them here! BUT I WILL ALWAYS BUY THE DVDS) :)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Film Review: the Martian

I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the new Ridley Scott film The Martian at TIFF today.

Apparently, they made Roy Thomson Hall 3D compatible especially for this film and I am glad they did! The usual acoustics at the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra were, as per usual astounding, and the 3D experience was thrilling.

Based on the bestselling ( and originally self-published ) book by Andy Weir, The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who is accidentally left behind on Mars during an emergency evacuation.

Fortunately, he is very, very smart and turns the crew's Hab into a fortress of solitude and survival.

Now, I should begin by saying this is not really my type of film. I am not huge into Science Fiction and Space freaks me out so much I haven't watched Gravity yet. But, this was a light and compelling narrative and Damon's amiable presence and near-daily video log entries are peppered with warmth and humour.

I told my friend as the credits rolled that very few actors could pull this off: make 75% of alone screen time bearable with a genius that never borders on cocky, a staid and salt-of-the-earth manner and a good sense of humour. To add, resourcefulness.

For the first several of Mark's sols ( Mars days) he is alone figuring out how to survive: counting out the rations he has, learning how to cultivate land in an infertile ground so he can grow potatoes and secure food while he waits for the next Mars mission four years ahead.

Fortunately, back at NASA control, life on Mars is detected and some neat science-y stuff allows Mark to touch base with their headquarters.  He literally has the smartest people in the world using their gizmos and gadgets and astro-physics and nerdy aplomb to figure out how to either get supplies to him or re-route the craft, the Hermes, with the crew that unintentionally left him behind, to swoosh past Mars and pick him up and bring him home.

This is a film populated with really likeable people. To add, it is a film that never really relies on the BIG EVERYTHING THAT MUST GO WRONG WILL moments. It chooses its tension wisely and I have to confess to experience some genuine white-knuckle moments.  This is all thanks to Damon's performance, though. He is such a likeable figure you cannot help but wish him home safe and sound.

A unique and ultra-compelling narrative driven by a stellar lead performance (and backed by a soundtrack of disco, of all things), The Martian is a survival film that never borders on existential brooding. Instead, it is full of heart and humour, light and the human will to survive.

I loved this popcorn thriller and think you all will, too! The cinematography is amazing!  And while I thoroughly don't Speak Science, I was pretty impressed at how Mark and his astronaut friends on earth and in space figured out how to launch a one-man-rescue amidst the stars.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Book Gush: The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden

“The work boyfriend. A curious relationship somewhere between pal and crush.”

Imagine a chicklit novel where you legitimately cannot predict what will happen at the end.    Even the most intelligent and edgy ones, at core, follow a pretty concrete pattern.

What set The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden apart for me was having absolutely no clue what the ultimate relationship end for our narrator Kelly was going to be.

A love letter to Toronto, the midpoint in the previous decade and to the crazy over-thinking lengths we go to to evaluate our love lives, McFadden paints a vulnerable and at times bleak portrait of a young woman, good at heart, who would rather crumble her world of her own volition than let anyone else take control.

Kelly and Rob have been together for years. Rob is pretty much the perfect solid boyfriend, if somewhat boring.  The sex is boring, his parents’ rich holiday soirees are boring and their relationship is like a comfy pair of sweatpants: you super want to crawl into them at the end of the day but sometimes you just want to pull on that new pair of skinny jeans, no matter how restrictive.

At work, Kelly is drawn to Garrett: earbuds draped around his neck, a rainbow of eclectic t-shirts, a smile and floppy hair that cause her stomach to flip each time he passes her cubicle.  Garrett and Kelly are good friends—within the sphere of work--- and both have a sizzling chemistry that the reader knows should probably stay bottled at the office or the neighbourhood pub when surrounded by other coworkers.

The timespan of the novel is tight: two weeks give or take around the Christmas Holidays.  But, Kelly’s mental span is quite realistically elastic: a trampoline that bounces back and forth from College and the Bad Boy Christian to the present where she thinks.about.Garrett.all.the.time.

I wanted to not relate to Kelly as much as I did.  She screws up. She throws in the towel in moments she could fight and she seems to think that there is some virtue in making poor decisions or not letting good things happen to her.  Her decisions have consequences and not once is she clutzy in the typical chicklit fashion. She’s messed up while navigating a realm of romantic possibility.  This is what separates McFadden from the pastel-coloured fun of Sophie Kinsella, her narrative voice and warmth what keep her from falling into the trying-too-hard-to-be-edgy work of Catherine McKenzie.   A bit Nick Hornby, a bit Rainbow Rowell,  McFadden has an inimitable voice that is rambly and believable, full of stream of consciousness backstory that remarkably doesn’t make you want to throw things.   The thinking person’s chicklit. And you will relate.  You will relate to Kelly expressing, frustrated: “ I want to want to marry him. I want to want to have kids. I want to want all of it, deep down, there’s a quagmire of doubt about everything. I can’t put my finger on it.”

It’s like Kelly is inviting you to move in her brain for a stint in a sort of Pixar Inside Out  way.

There are some truly beautiful moments in the book.  This lyrical and brave book that is deceptively readable but really super thought-provoking.

“A stillness descended upon the table, like how a snowfall quiets a forest.”

And, one of my favourite sequences from any book of the past year. Because this *gets* me

That feeling you get when you’re in the airport limo driving back down into  the city and you see the skyline—the CN Tower, the condos that litter the lakeshore, the familiar bumps of the Gardiner Expressway—and then, no matter how much fun you had while you were away[ …] that warmth spreads through in the back of the car ---that was what I imagined being married, living with someone for eternity, felt like.

“Winter allowed the city a moment to hold still for the holidays and let people tuck in nice and warm. The streets were quiet, dampened by the snow. Before the snowplows, before anyone shoveled, before pets had to be walked, the sidewalks were crisp, crunchy even.”

“The air might stop at nothing to freeze your lungs mid-breath, but I’d never wanted to live anywhere else.

The CN Tower refused to blink. The stars paused. The air dropped even lower in temperature.”

“Love is tricky. But now that I know I can stand on my own two feet….”

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Hamlet: The Ultra-Condensed Version

Mel and I went to Stratford on Saturday for a fun double-header of Hamlet and Taming of the Shrew.

I give you, for your enjoyment, Hamlet: Abridged

Guards: GHOST!

Horatio:  How now, guards! Was that a ghost I saw?


Guards and Horatio: Good Lord this is terrifying

[meanwhile at a wedding party]

Claudius: blah blah blah royal duty blah blah
Gertrude: giggle
Hamlet:  I am going to stand here like a statue and curse all women for being as fickle as my mother who but a month after the death of my father is marrying this lout.
Claudius: come Hamlet! Stop standing all aloof like Darcy at a country dance, join us and we shall all kiss
Hamlet: *rolls eyes*

[First of many existential soliloquies]
[amidst the growing tension of a faraway random geographically-implausible war between England, Poland, Norway and Denmark]

Polonius: now Laertes, before you off for France, let me tell you and your fair virginal sister Ophelia some nuggets of wisdom.
*does so, loquaciously*

Ophelia: I think I am in love with Lord Hamlet
*twists daisy chain*

So you see, Ophelia, I thought we had a future; but it turns out I prefer Horatio and also I am playing mad.

Horatio: Hamlet, you gotta come see this ghost who looks like your dead dad
Hamlet: *existential moanings of woe*

*Hamlet, Horatio and Guards chase ghost*

Ghost: Hamlet, my son, I have not come to weird you out. Rather, to tell you your douchebag uncle Claudius put poison in my ear and killed me to get your mom.  Please avenge my death.

*Hamlet wallows loquaciously in a  murky haze of indecision, fake madness and existential soliloquies of which here are some highlights*:

Polonius: I know what is troubling you, young man. Love for my daughter.
Hamlet: words words words. Buzz buzz buzz

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern : you be a little weird, yo
Hamlet: Hawk and a handsaw!

Ophelia: oh lord Hamlet, I do take your madness harshly; perchance because we have done the deed and according to my later suicidal presentation of flowers, many symbolizing abortive powers, you may have knocked me up
Hamlet: Get thee to a nunnery

PLAYERS: we have come to play! And entertain!  Perchance to help you forget the looming English-Polish-Norwegian-Danish conflict that plays off stage left throughout this whole thing.
Hamlet: Can you guys do Murder of Gonzago? Except, I will totally write a few extra lines?
PLAYERS: we see nothing odd about this at all. Totally fine with this.

[more existential Hamlet soliloquies]

PLAYERS: *reenact death of Hamlet’s father what with poison and such*
Claudius: I’ll be damned. They're on to me

[Hamlet: more existential soliloquies and indecision and inaction]

Gertrude: son Hamlet, why do you hate me so?
Hamlet: You’re totally shacking up with my murderous uncle.  *Kills Polonius accidentally*

Claudius: we shall send Hamlet away to England hope he dies
Audience: but isn't England one of the countries in this implausible war?
Shakespeare:  the political and military stuff isn't supposed to make sense here, you guys. If you want all that, go see one of the Henrys. 

Ophelia: woe! My father is dead. I have lost my mind. I might be pregnant. In fact, in this Stratford production I am!

Laertes: Behold! I return from France.  WTF! My dad’s dead and my sister is looney. What did you guys do?

Claudius *cough* Hamlet *cough*

[Ophelia:drowns herself after talking a lot about flowers ]

Gertrude: *proceeds to describe in great detail how Ophelia died leaving everyone to ponder why no one inevitably watching this slow and easy to recount in great detail death, didn’t go and save her*

Laertes: REVENGE!!!!

[Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead]

Hamlet: Horatio! LOOK! I am back from England! I was almost killed and drowned and stuff. Let’s take a detour by the graveyard

[gravedigger. Skull. Yorick.]
[Ophelia funeral]

Claudius: I have an idea, Laertes.  Let’s poison Hamlet in a made-up fencing tournament.  You will nick him with your sword. And if that doesn’t kill him we’ll have a goblet of poisoned wine as a backup.
Laertes: sure!

Hamlet: the readiness is all!
Audience: can you please die so we don't have to have another soliloquy?

Hamlet and Laertes *fence fence fence*
 Cladius: drink from this goblet, Hamlet, you look thirsty.
Hamlet: meh!
Gertrude: mmm wine. Gimme *drinks and dies*
Claudius: *dies*
Laertes: *dies*
Hamlet *dies*
Fortinbras: Ummm, okay. I think I showed up at the wrong time! I am part of the plot involving the English-Polish-Norwegian-Danish war.
Horatio: *sniffing* I forgot about that
Fortinbras: No worries. I think everyone did. Hamlet looks like a nice guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. LET US BURY HIM AS A SOLDIER

The end.

this is basically a love story between these two 

Thursday, September 03, 2015


The Life of Rachel:

Day job: insane
After-school job (the writing novels thing): insane with edits

but !   Look! We have pretty covers.

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder releases March 2016

A Singular and Whimsical Problem Dec 2015 (it's an e-only novella introducing you to Jem and Merinda and crew)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Things I am Totally Into Right Now

Tommy and Tuppence ( Partners in Crime)
Guys! Guys! I am not a huge Agatha Christie fan across the board, but I love these two. Unlike the 1980s series which was totally 1920s flapper glam,  this reboot is set in the 1950s and it makes it even more wonderful when Tuppence thwarts domesticity for a life of crime-solving.  I love the chemistry between Tommy and Tuppence who are a settled married couple but have such a penchant for thrill-seeking it jolts something back into their obvious chemistry.  I also enjoy how their little boy is always conveniently away and how they sneak into people's things in pursuit of their mysteries and get caught and have lame cover stories and no one cares.  Love.

I saw this touring production in Boston and then twice now in Toronto and Dan DeLuca( as well as having a favourite close-to-my-heart surname) is just astounding as the leader of the strike, Jack Kelly. I went with some people yesterday and told them that Newsies excels at revitalizing the old fashioned type of broadway that is reliant on singing and dancing and not on special effects and rock ballads.   The kids are amazing on stage, there is a fabulous feminist lead and the voices are exceptional. The choreography incorporates every type of dance from acrobatic to ballet to tap.  I am just thrilled at how much verve it has.  See it if it is coming to your city ( don't worry, it is much better than the film. It works better on stage)

I also think if people have kids this is a great way to introduce them to a major point in children's justice and history but also to ignite a discussion on social justice.


I  could talk about the Shaw Festival's production forever and wanted to do a full blown review but realized I don't have the time this week what with edits and my real job.  So, here you are going to get the overview.   Settled in gorgeous Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Shaw Festival is a favourite summer stop about two hours out of Toronto.  My friend Mel and I went and had a blast.  Here, they have kept the dialogue the same and stayed cherished and true to the original work but transposed it to the 21st Century.  All the way through, I was delightedly thinking:  How Does Pymalion Work Now? But it does.  Save for when Eliza complains about not being able to find a role outside of marriage as Higgin has made her fit for nothing.  

Speaking of Higgins,  Patrick McManus made it his own. I have seen several incarnations of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady and a lot of it is the same old, same old ( the delightfully same old because I friggin' love it).  But, McManus updated the character, made him boyish and infused quite a lot of physicality.  The sets were amazing. Eliza was amazing. It just worked very well.    There is an entire re-invention fashion motif,  there is a set-change video from the BBC talking about the new class ( which blends well with Alfie Doolittle's long -drawn-out treatises on Middle Class Morality). It proves that Shaw's humour and relevance are century agnostic.

Emma Approved
After a long week at a work conference, I vegged out Friday night and binge-watched this youtube serial.  I have never seen Lizzie Bennett Diaries but I really enjoyed this. It worked well. The Knightley was adorable and it is cozy marshmallow-hot-chocolate viewing.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Gush!!!! : Sebastien de Castell and Kate Griffin

If you are like: I wish I could find the Musketeers as retold by Scott Lynch then I have this series for you.

Confession: it’s hard to make me laugh in books.  You won’t usually find my laughing at the spirited antics of some contemporary romance where the heroine has toilet paper stuck to her shoe.  I’m not into that.   I am, however, a sucker for cerebral sarcasm and a winning, irreverent voice.    

‘Goodnight Lord Tremondi,’ I said. ‘You weren’t an especially good employer. You lied a lot and you never paid us when you promised. But, I guess that’s all right, since we turned out to be pretty useless bodyguards”

I WAS LAUGHING ON THE FIRST PAGE !   Falcio and his Greatcoat friends are outcasts, outliers and completely obsolete but they need to save the day anyways.

“My name is Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Great Coats and this was only the first of a great many bad days to come!”  de Castell tugs you into his web and entangles you there.

Lest you think it is all fun and swashbuckling hijinks, it is not.   Indeed, there is a pensive and sad undertone with a perfectly realized world developed with injustice, pain and sorrow.

“It is an odd sort of bluish colour, and you would call it bright at first, but then as you looked on it further, you’d find yourself adding words like oily and runny-looking and finally sort of disturbing.”

de Castell has a way with words that is equally surprising and winsome, cunning and smart.   His prose literally snaps up from the page and sparks you in the eye like the moment you toss an extra log on a campfire and flits of ember flick a little extra smoke.

There’s a great deal of screaming in this story. Best get used to it now.

I think I was attacked once or twice, but I couldn’t afford the delay so I killed them and moved on.

I just love them.  The first two books  The Traitor's Blade  and Knight''s Shadow are available now.

I received Knight's Shadow for review from the publisher 

And, if you are like: I kinda want Sally Lockhart but I would prefer a more interesting guy sidekick (maybe a gay Italian with a half-scarred face) and more cross-dressing and opium addiction then you will love Kitty Peck. I read The Music Hall Murders and the Child of Ill-Fortune back to back last week. I had trouble putting them down.  [note: these books are super inexpensive on kindle]

You guys all know I love Victoriana and surprising poems and the dark, creaky shadow-drenched streets of London illuminated with surprising prose.   Kate Griffin pulled me in immediately.

“She was dressed in a black embroidered gown that gaped wide at the neck revealing a throat that was strung like a broken violin.”

Really vivid imagery, a perfect Cockney-vernacular which sets brilliantly well in the first person narrative.  Kitty is at times infuriating and vulnerable, strong and sly.   A different kind of lady detective in stories that defy genre.

“Lady Ginger’s words were like something noxious coughed up by a pampered cat. One minute it’s purring and curled up neat on your lap, next it’s hawking out a half-digested rat head.”

“he coated my name with a greasy slick of insolence”

And as much as I love Kitty, I love Lucca!  Smart, cultured Lucca who maintains pride and vanity despite the treacherous accident that marred half of his beautiful face.  I love how a few Italian words and phrases erupt now and then. 

“I’d seen the truth of that picture, but Lucca, now , it was like he could feel it all—every lash, every cut, every chain.”

It’s a very vivid and visceral and gritty world with dark motivations and the basest of human depravity.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Spotlight: the Great Estate

Title: The Great Estate
Author: Sherri Browning
Series: Thornbrook Park, #3
Pubdate: August 4th, 2015
ISBN: 9781402286858

Pulled apart by past mistakes. Driven by a passion neither could deny.

Sophia Thorne was young and inexperienced when she married the dashing Earl of Averford…and through dark and troubled times, their relationship nearly came to an end. Now she’s determined to transform herself into the fiery, ardent lover she always wanted to be, giving them a second chance at love… before they’re lost to each other forever.

It took nearly losing Sophia for Gabriel to realize he had allowed his love for his great estate to distract him from his beautiful wife. But that time is over. Despite all the obstacles standing in their way, Gabriel vows to teach Sophia what it is to truly love…and to be loved by a husband devoted heart and soul to her every desire.

Sherri Browning writes historical and contemporary romance fiction, sometimes with a paranormal twist. She is the author of critically acclaimed classic mash-ups Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Sherri has lived in western Massachusetts and Greater Detroit Michigan, but is now settled with her family in Simsbury, Connecticut. Find her online at


Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, the third in Sherri Browning’s Thornbrook Park series, The Great Estate, comes out this August! To celebrate her new release, Sherri’s agreed to answer some questions for us about herself and her career as an author.  

How do you approach the research in your novels in order to provide the lush and well-drawn settings in which you populate your characters.

I travel. I love visiting old estates that have been kept in their original condition. I recently went through the Frick Museum, former residence of Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), with author Julia London in New York City. I like to read fiction written in the same time period I’m writing in to pick up some ideas of setting, like novels by E.M Forster or Edith Wharton. I also use Pinterest and Tumblr to find some pictures of location or period-specific clothes, art, and architecture.

An Excerpt:

Thornbrook Park. A warm wave of pride filled him at the sight as Dale drove them up the winding way. The chimneys appeared first over the crest of the hill, followed by the slate roof, and finally the rose stone facade. How could he have stayed away so long?  
 Sophia wouldn’t be expecting him. He planned to surprise her, perhaps persuade Finch not to even announce his return. He would simply appear at the dinner hour, dressed to the nines, and act as if he had been there the entire time. Darling, I believe the quail is cooked perfectly, but not quite the same as when I shoot it myself… No, it wouldn’t do. She hated it when he left her alone to go off hunting. He’d always known it, but he couldn’t seem to give it up. Old habits. In truth, he couldn’t wait to get his boots on, the good English ones he’d left behind, take up his rifle, and stomp off into the woods. His woods. Alas, there would be no more hunting. At least, not as frequently, and certainly not right away. Not until he was certain that he wouldn’t upset Sophia further. Not until she forgave him.
Perhaps he could suggest other activities that they could do together? His brow shot up. He knew just what activities he had in mind, but they would have to work up to that. Slowly. He meant to court her properly, one step at a time.
“Now, Dale, I don’t want a fuss,” he said. “It’s good to be home but no need for a celebration. I mean to slip in quietly.”

Buy Links:


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Spotlight: Tremaine's True Love by Grace Burrowes

Hi reader friends! I do love a good romance now and then! 

Grace Burrowes gives us insight into Tremaine's True Love as well as an excerpt from the book

What makes a man a gentleman?

For a romance writer, this question has to be answered in every book, because implicit in the term “hero” is something of the gentleman. Heroes need not be charming, handsome or wealthy, and they might not even be obviously heroic, at least at the start of the book, but they have to be worthy of our loyalty for the duration of an entire book.

In the True Gentlemen series, I took three men who’d wandered across my pages in previous stories—Tremaine St. Michael, Daniel Banks, and Willow Dorning—and found them each a happily ever after. Tremaine is a flinty business man, Daniel is poor and pious, Willow finds polite society an enormous trial and would far rather be with his dogs. These fellows were not obvious choices as romance heroes, but they each hadsomething that tempted me to write stories for them.

When we met Tremaine in an earlier book (Gabriel: Lord of Regrets), Tremaine was convinced that he’d found a good candidate for the position of wife. He offered marriage, listing all the practical advantages to both parties, and he congratulated himself on how much sense his proposed union would make.

The lady turned him down flat, and as a gentleman is bound to do, he graciously ceded the field. He didn’t like it, he didn’t entirely understand how or what he’d lost, but he wished the happy couple well.

Daniel’s role in David: Lord of Honor was to charge to London with sermons at the ready in an attempt to restore his sister’s honor. The very man Daniel accused of wronging that sister had already set her back on the path to respectability.

Oops. But again, being a gentleman, Daniel wishes the couple every happiness, even if doing so costs him the future he’d envisioned for himself and his loved ones. Like Tremaine, he’s a gracious and even dignified loser.

Willow’s appearance in Worth: Lord of Reckoning is brief, but he too is determined to see a sister rescued from a possibly compromising position, and again, rescue is simply not on the heroine’s agenda.

In all three cases, the true gentleman acts in the best interests of those he loves and is responsible for, regardless of the inconvenience or cost to himself. Because Tremaine, Daniel, and Willow were honorable, I liked them. I trusted them, I wanted them to have the happiness they clearly already deserved.

In the Nicholas Haddonfield’s sisters—Nita, Kirsten, and Susannah—I found ladies willing to oblige my ambitions for these men. In each case, our hero has lessons yet to learn, and in each case, his inherent honor wins the day. He might not be handsome, wealthy, or charming in the eyes of the world, but because he’s a true gentleman in the eyes of his lady, he wins her true love.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Excerpt – Tremaine’s True Love

Wealthy businessman Tremaine St. Michael has concluded that marriage to Lady Nita Haddonfield would be a prudent merger of complimentary interests for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of both parties… or some such blather.

Tremaine rapped on Lady Nita’s door, quietly, despite a light shining from beneath it. Somebody murmured something which he took for permission to enter.

“Mr. St. Michael?”

Tremaine stepped into her ladyship’s room, closed the door behind him and locked it, which brought the total of his impossibly forward behaviors to several thousand.

“Your ladyship expected a sister, or a maid with a pail of coal?”

“I wasn’t expecting you.” Lady Nita sat near the hearth in a blue velvet dressing gown. The wool stockings on her feet were thick enough to make a drover covetous. “Are you unwell, Mr. St. Michael?”

“You are not pleased to see me.” Did she think illness the only reason somebody would seek her out?

She set aside some pamphlet, a medical treatise, no doubt. No vapid novels for Lady Nita.

“I was not expecting you, sir.”

“You were not expecting me to discuss marriage with you earlier. I wasn’t expecting the topic to come up in a casual fashion either. May I sit?”

She waved an elegant hand at the other chair flanking the hearth. Tremaine settled in, trying to gather his thoughts while the firelight turned Lady Nita’s braid into a rope of burnished gold.

“You are pretty.” Brilliant place to start. The words had come out, heavily burred, something of an ongoing revelation.

“I am tall and blond,” she retorted, twitching the folds her of her robe. “I have the usual assortment of parts. What did you come here to discuss?”

Lady Nita was right, in a sense. Her beauty was not of the ballroom variety, but rather, an illumination of her features by characteristics unseen. She fretted over new babies, cut up potatoes like any crofter’s wife, and worried for her sisters. These attributes interested Tremaine. Her madonna-with-a-secret smile, keen intellect, and longing for laughter attracted him.

Even her medical pre-occupation, in its place, had some utility as well.

“Will you marry me, my lady?”

More brilliance. Where had his wits gone? George Haddonfield had graciously pointed out that Nita needed repose and laughter, and Tremaine was offering her the hand of the most restless and un-silly man in the realm.

The lady somehow contained her incredulity, staring at her hands. “You want to discuss marriage?”

“I believe I did just open that topic. Allow me to elaborate on my thesis: Lady Bernita Haddonfield, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? I think we would suit, and I can promise you would know no want in my care.”

A proper swain would have been on his damn bended knee, the lady’s hand in his. Lady Nita would probably laugh herself to tears if Tremaine attempted that nonsense. Lady Nita picked up her pamphlet, which Tremaine could now see was written in German.

“Why, Mr. St. Michael?”

“I beg your pardon?” Tremaine was about to pitch the damned pamphlet in the fire, until he recalled that Nita Haddonfield excelled at obscuring her stronger emotions.

“Why should you marry me, Tremaine St. Michael? Why should I marry you? I’ve had other offers, you’ve made other offers. You haven’t known me long enough to form an opinion of my character beyond the superficial.”

This ability to take a situation apart, into causes, effects, symptoms, and prognosis was part of the reason she was successful as a healer. Tremaine applied the same tendencies to commercial situations, so he didn’t dismiss her questions as coyness or manipulation.

She wasn’t rejecting him either. She most assuredly was not rejecting him.

Buy Links

Author Biography

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes' bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Lady Eve's Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

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