Tuesday, May 17, 2016

In which I was in Chicago

So, I have been rather silent on the blog: but with good reason.

My galleys for A Lesson in Love and Murder were due and I have been feverishly working on The White Feather Murders.

Busy, busy.

I did, however, get to steal away to Chicago for the latter half of last week.

I arrived on Wednesday after a bit of a gong show of a trip over there. We left Toronto early in the morning, arrived in Chicago, couldn't land because of fog, circled and circled about and finally returned to Toronto.

I spent most of the day in the Porter lounge at Billy Bishop writing White Feather. When I finally did get to Chicago I was excited to see all of the sites that I hadn't seen in two years since my last trip there ( especially because I had written A Lesson in Love and Murder  during the interim --- about 80 per cent of that book is set in Chicago).

My friend Sonja ( from Vancouver Island) joined me and we stayed at the W City Centre Hotel. It was fab: like this psychadelic disco castle.

We took a long ramble about and I gaped up at the amazing architecture and found dinner at Pizano's on State Street.  Score for us, it was half-off bottles of chianti.

The next day, I was pretty packed with all things bookish at Book Expo America.

I met the Harvest House crew for breakfast and then headed over to Book Expo at McCormick Place.   It was a zoo! I signed a few books and met a few readers and spent some time with my amazing editor.

A long day of bookish goodness later and Sonja and I were back prowling Chicago. We had dinner at the Emerald Loop and then cocktails at The Palmer House.  Note: I am obsessed with the Palmer House. It's where Jem and Merinda stay when they are in Chicago and you really, really, really must spend time there if you are in the Windy City.

Friday saw us out and exploring again....
Sonja is a professional photographer, so part of her vision for her portion of the trip was to use Chicago's gorgeous hybrid of historical and modern architecture to create a visual narrative.   Because she had a friend ( me!) along with her, I modeled for a lot of the shots.  

We spent a wonderful day getting pics at the El stations and perusing Marshall Fields and the Tiffany Ceiling (now Macy's), exploring the river and shooting near the Palmer.  After work was done for the day, we headed for cocktails at the Signature Room in the John Hancock Building where we were afforded amazing views of the city.  After which, we found dinner at Quartino which is one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at in the States. The food was amazing, the wine was amazing, the wait staff was amazing ( thanks for the free limoncello! ).   After which, we left the W behind and headed to an air bnb in Lincoln Square to spend the rest of our Chicago weekend.

A new neighbourhood and new digs ( with a gorgeous swath of print! --- I love print!) , our borrowed apartment was cozy and gave us an entirely different feel for an interesting new neighbourhood.  On Saturday morning we wandered through the square which is home to several families with small children and inched through a street festival.   Lincoln Square ( unbeknownst to me previously) is a largely German area of Chicago and it was interesting to see that cultural influence.

A quick El ride in to the city proper and we were freezing along the river thanks to a quick temperature drop. Nonetheless, we took an Architectural Tour on the river before wandering the streets again and stopping at this adorable little wine bar.    Dinner was at Bistronomic--- a to-die-for French place on Pearson Street. Thereafter, we procured tickets to Disenchanted: a Disney musical spoof reclaiming a feminine space for princesses.

Sunday morning was a lot of packing followed by brunch at Le Cafe in Lincoln Square before she took an uber to O'Hare and I took an uber to Midway.

Chicago is an incredible city. It reminds me a lot of Toronto. I fell for it two years ago when I visited for the annual Dickens Fellowship Conference and was very lucky to spend more time there again.
The preservation of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and the on-going beautification process (started in the early 1900s on the magnificent mile and beyond) help establish one of the most alluring historical cities in the US.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Guest Post: 1910s Cinema and the Strong Heroines in those Films that led to A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR by Radha Vatsal

Rachel note: delighted that Radha Vatsal took time to talk about cinema in the 1910s:  Kitty Weeks' first adventure is one I loved  ( it is very Jem and Merinda approved!) and I so appreciate Radha taking the time to visit A Fair Substitute for Heaven today. 

Capability “Kitty” Weeks, the protagonist of A Front Page Affair, is a reporter for the Ladies’ Page of the New York Sentinel in 1915.  She’s dying to report real news but that’s the prerogative of the men who work at the City Desk or in the Newsroom. Still, Kitty is inspired by the strong, active heroines she sees on screen in the movie theaters.  These women—actresses like Pearl White, Kathlyn Williams and Helen Holmes—portrayed athletic, independent and intelligent heroines who were hungry for adventure and took matters into their own hands when necessary—and this was before women even had the right to vote.
I learned about the action film heroines of the silent era during my graduate studies at Duke University.  The 1910s saw a spate of silent film serials released, all of which featured women playing the lead in action roles.  These films showed women involved in mThe Hazards of Helen (1915).

atters far outside the home. They moved into the territory that we might now associate with male actors. They chased villains in cars, rode horses, flew airplanes, ran down hillsides chased by huge boulders, and emerged from dangerous situations basically unscathed. They were tough and also happy-go-lucky, and their films were popular both in the US and around the world.  Here’s a clip of Helen Holmes in

I thought they needed to be put into a story and the way I did that wasn’t to make an action heroine the protagonist of my book, but rather, to make an action heroine, specifically Pearl White, Kitty Weeks’s inspiration as she pursues her journalistic investigations.  In a later book in the Kitty Weeks Mystery series (A Front Page Affair is the first) I hope to have Kitty directly interact with Pearl or another silent-era film star.  Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, for instance, were very influential in persuading ordinary Americans to support the country’s entry into World War I.  Kitty Weeks will be there, watching it all unfold.  You can read more about the forgotten silent-film heroines of the 1910s in an article I wrote for TheAtlantic.com, and see images about them and other aspects of life in the 1910s on the World of Kitty Weeks Tumblr.

Radha Vatsal is a writer based in New York City. She was born in Mumbai, India and has a Ph.D. from the English Department at Duke University. Her debut novel, A Front Page Affaircomes out this May from Sourcebooks Landmark. You can write to her at radhavatsalauthor@gmail.com or friend her on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


GIVEAWAY TIME!  Over at Relz you can meet the girls and here you can meet their guys! 

You need only visit here and comment and then go to Relz and comment 

The Bachelor's Guide to MurderGA

Character Spotlight @ Relz Reviewz

Brief physical description: Ray DeLuca
Ray is medium height ( the exact same height as Jem Watts. I wanted to make them equals in every way). He has dark black hair, long lashes and black eyes and always has ink on his fingers.   His ears stick out a little bit and his nose is not quite patrician, but close. He’s several years older than Jem so he is just starting to show a bit of grey at the temples.

Resembles: the DeLuca smile is definitely actor Chris Messina’s.  When I was first plotting the book, I had watched a film called The Giant Mechanical Man and I thought: there is a guy with an interesting smile ( it helped that he wears a bowler hat in it)   Not conventionally handsome, not someone who would stop you in your tracks; but who has a really dazzling smile when it’s full on. Ray doesn’t full on smile that often but when he does….  Jem falls off her chair

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Strengths:  Ray provides for his sister and his nephew sacrificing a lot of his salary and his attempts at finding personal happiness to take care of them.  Ray is a remarkably quick learner and picked up English fairly quickly when he arrived in Canada. Like Jasper Forth, he has strong convictions and believes in Jem and Merinda as equals deciding they can do anything they put their mind to.   Ray has a heart for injustice and the immigrant community and proves it by often undertaking long muckraking stints in prisons and flophouses to excavate some of the dirt therein and publish it publicly in the Hogtown Herald. Ray is also a romantic and a dreamer.  His dream is to work for the Globe and Mail. 

Weaknesses:  Ray has a temper.  He also writes terrible poetry ( but I think it only sounds terrible in English--- in his native language, I am sure we would all swoon).
Jemima is a major weakness for Ray ( but also his strength), their relationship is a guiding force of the entire series.

Your inspiration for the character: Like Watson and Mary Morstan, I wanted Jem Watts to find a love interest. Initially, I thought to create a police officer for her.  But, then I got this idea for a reporter. Someone who knows the ins and outs of the city and who fights injustice through words.  The more I spent time fleshing out Ray (who am I kidding, the guy started taking over the book), the more I recognized that he represents everything I love about my city.  He is an emblem of its progress and change, its perseverance and the immigration and multiculturalism that makes the city so unique.

Jasper Forth

Brief Physical Description:  Jasper is tall and broad-shouldered ( over 6 feet) he has dark brown hair and bright blue eyes. He is handsome in a boy next door kind of way. He especially looks dashing in his police uniform.    Note: Jasper is from Maritime Canada so he has a bit of an East Coast lilt to his voice.


(With most of the characters I have a really specific idea of what they look like based on my imagination; but with Jasper he is definitely British actor Andrew Buchan. When I first thought of him, I thought this fellow has to have an open, honest face. A face like Andrew Buchans.)

Strengths and weaknesses  

Strength: Jasper is a loyal friend –especially to Merinda. He believes in her completely no matter what society would say to her detriment as a lady detective. He is good at his job and is forever getting promotions before getting demoted thanks to helping Merinda out.  Despite his stints back on the King Street traffic beat, he will always find a way to help out.  He is also an honest cop in a corrupt police force: something that is explored more and more throughout the rest of the series.    He will do anything to protect his friends and find justice.

Weakness:  Jasper’s primary weakness is Merinda. He has been in love with her since they were at university and he will do anything to please her—even if it means getting in trouble.  He is also a very nice fellow. While he is very competent at his job, it can mean he is subject to teasing. Ray tells him that there are different kinds of strengths but the strength Jasper has is one of conscience and character and this is sometimes underappreciated by Chief Henry Tipton

Your inspiration for the character:   I wanted Merinda and Jem to have a connection with the police force and because Merinda is such a strong personality I wanted to pit her against a man who is very much like her friend Jem in so many ways. I love a man who is dedicated to one woman and who has been saving his salary for years for a home and family.  I also think Jasper represents the morals and ethics of the story in the most traditional way.   He will always follow the letter of the law.  Finally, I wanted a counterbalance to Ray, and an opposite to Merinda.  Jasper brings out a softer spot in Merinda in several instances (stay tuned) much as Jemima does. 

To enter:
  1. Post a comment here about what you love about what makes a strong hero; AND
  2. Pop over to Rel's blog, and leave a comment about Jem and Merinda and meet them there
A winner will be drawn on Sunday May 1st!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Some amazing books are releasing today!

Check them out!

A wildly entertaining and realistic contemporary romance set in New Zealand and with a brilliant Tolkien twist.  Kara Isaac's assured debut Close to You  is cerebral whimsical snark and is a firecracker new addition to her genre

Painstaking historical research coupled with a mesmerizing narrative, Promised to the Crown features three remarkable ( and remarkably different) filles du roi: navigating life, love and hardship in 17th Century New France

Flickers finds Slade back in Dust mode: with a creepy vintage feel and things that go bump in the night. A harrowing, haunted look with a cinemascope feel and a perfect 1920s atmosphere, he remains my favourite Canadian YA voice.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Jem and Merinda are out in the world.... and giveaways! and a party!

So you all know from my latest post how to buy The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder at all major retail outlets online.

If you are in America: Barnes and Noble has extended their promotion of Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder for a few more weeks. So look for it on new release displays and if you feel so led, snap a picture....

CANADIANS! Guess what? Soon, soon, soon you will be able to find Jem and Merinda in the Mystery section of your Chapters and Indigo.   Until then, you can order online or from the kiosk in-store ( even pre-order A Lesson in Love and Murder while you are at it)

If you are in St Catharine's author Sandra Orchard will be signing copies of A Fool and His Monet and I will be signing copies of Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder this Saturday at Heritage bookstore !

I was so excited to meet part of the Harvest House publishing team last night here in Toronto for dinner! Even though my publisher is far away in Oregon, I so enjoy being a part of the family there.

We are having an amazing amazing awesome and phenomenal GIVEAWAY thanks to our friends at Litfuse!   Check out the promo landing site here  This Murder Mystery Prize Pack was handpicked to reflect some of Jem and Merinda's favourite things:

In addition to this awesome giveaway, please come to our public (meaning EVERYONE is invited) facebook party which will give you an opportunity to talk to ME and learn about my BOOKS and Toronto and DEDUCTION but also give you the opportunity to win more prizes such as gift certificates and copies of Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder.

Now, friends, everything you have (n)ever wanted to know about Jem and Merinda and Jasper and Ray and me are at your disposal.  Please come! You can RSVP here https://www.facebook.com/events/1601750113480451/

Here's a blog I did for Lifeway on the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres ( a big part of Toronto history and a very special place for Jem and Ray)

I wrote about the conditions of the Ward for the Harvest House website

And guest posts and interviews galore:

At Litfuse

at Reading is My Super Power

At Lena Nelson Dooley's blog 

A peek at my writing desk at Inspired by Love and Fiction 

At Kelly Bridgewater's blog ( a Fictional Hogtown Herald article care of Ray!)

Friday, April 01, 2016

Happy Book Birthday Jem, Merinda, Jasper and Ray (aka The Shameless Self Promotion Post)

Debut of the Month!!!!! thanks, Library Journal 

OH NO! Temporarily out of Stock! Keep those orders coming ! WHEEE!

HEY LOOK! thanks Romantic Times 


that one amazing reader who named her baby chicks Merinda and Jem and made this ADORABLE graphic 

Fresh and beguiling, the Bachelor Girls are an engaging new addition to the mystery scene. They tackle criminals with a combination of unique moxie and an irrepressible sense of adventure. I want to be friends with the Bachelor Girls---Deanna Raybourn

In her fabulous debut, Rachel McMillan brings 1910 Toronto to rich and wonderful life. The intrepid Jem and merinda make a winning detective team. Full of romance and derring-do, The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder will keep you turning pages-- Nancy Herriman

Now, a lot of people got the book on NETGALLEY or through early amazon shipments, but today is ACTUALLY the release day of the Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder.  YAY HURRAH!

So, I really think that you should consider going and finding this book and telling your friends!

Books a Million
Barnes and Noble

And we had a launch in the Distillery District here in Toronto ( where my fictional Hogtown Herald office is located)

thanks for the promotion, Chapters Indigo homepage!



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Theatre Catch-Up

With my real job and tomorrow's release of Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder , I am behind on my blogging.

I saw three shows recently.  First, a touring production of Beauty and the Beast  which is now scaled back somewhat from the dazzling 90s production and didn't do a lot for me.

Friends and I went to Tarragon to see You Will Remember Me which was a fascinating experience: mostly because the playwright and translator were there to flesh out their experiences with the piece in a post-show talkback.

c/o Torontoist

R.H. Thomson is pretty unbelievable as a French-Canadian history professor whose alzheimers is settling in quickly.  While his quick mind still holds to the past ( the very, very far gone past ), scribbles in his notebook keep that which is contemporary swirling around him.

It is a quiet play with calm sets and a small cast, largely resting on the fact that Thomson is brilliant. He really is.  He is magnificent and heartbreaking here.

But, what the play renders so beautifully is a snapshot of the threatening loss of cultural consciousness. A bold statement on the loss of the fervour of a Quebec Libre, Rene Levesque and past referendum.  While this Quebecois-surged piece might at first seem isolating to those unfamiliar with the material--- the themes of loss and a zealous nostalgia are universal.  Hence, when the playwright mentioned that it had played in Calgary and was perhaps finding its way to New York, I knew that the solid material would shine.

No intermission and a stark woodsy backdrop immerse you immediately in the content and do not let you go until the lights dim.  Perhaps one of the most interesting notes I came away with is how Thomson managed to inflect his voice and mannerisms with those of a man indigenous to Quebec without putting on an accent.   I am a firm believer that I would rather have no accent than an inconsistent one and while Thomson can probably do anything, this was one thing that stood out for me.
c/o postcity

Readers of my blog know I am a MASSIVE Soulpepper fan. We are so lucky that Toronto has such a strong theatre base and their ensemble pieces continue to dazzle.    I was familiar with David French's Canadian play but had never seen it and it is one of the funniest and most farcical spectacles I have ever seen on stage.   The audience was in an uproar surging the auditorium with an energy that flicked and pulsed the frenetic action on stage.    Oliver Dennis is a LONG time favourite of mine and he is perhaps the most scene-stealing character in this backstage drama about the anxieties and tensions rampant behind an opening production.

The cast used the space well: meandering through the aisles, the stage manager bellowing from the box above and the set was all 70s kitsch.    Alex Furber ( who we had seen in Anne and Gilbert the musical in the fall) played the ingenue role like a wide-eyed Greg Brady.

I am really lucky to live where I do:  in close proximity to festivals such as Shaw and Stratford and in the heart of Toronto which has some of the greatest theatre going.

In both of the aforementioned plays, the love for Canadian culture and its limitations and triumphs are paraded --- in Jitters over-the-top,  in You Will Remember Me subtle and sad.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Special Feature: These Farmhouse Bookshelves by Christie Purifoy

Rachel note: delighted to have the winsome Christie on the blog today.  Loved her book Roots and Sky: Christie is a poet and a luscious writer , also her blog and her instagram will change your life with sheer beauty !  I love following her 'These Farmhouse Bookshelves' feature and am happy to feature her here ..... 

photo c/o Christie's blog 
I’ve always heard you should write the book you want to read.
I’ve always thought, easier said than done.
I love to read everything from Virginia Woolf to Agatha Christie, but I don’t see myself following in either woman’s literary footsteps.

Today, I’m convinced the advice is solid but a little too broad. We can’t write every book we want to read, but our reading loves and our reading disappointments will point us in the right direction.
I discovered my direction when I realized how many of the stories on my bookshelves are told according to the pattern of the shifting seasons. These were some of the first books I learned to love, books like Tasha Tudor’s A Time to Keep which celebrates twelve months of seasonal traditions and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden in which the drama of winter becoming spring is mirrored in the lives of two children.

One Christmas, I was given the heavy yellow boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. I reread every one until the spines cracked and the pages splayed, but I read Farmer Boy most frequently of all. This fictionalized autobiography of Laura’s husband Almanzo tells its story according to the seasonal rhythms of a northern New York farm. From winter’s deep snow and popcorn by the woodstove to pulling a block of river ice from the icehouse for homemade ice cream in summer, Farmer Boy made me hunger for seasons I never fully tasted growing up in a central Texas prairie town.

Today, I live in an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania, and that long-ago hunger is satisfied in snowflakes, daffodils, zinnias, and fiery maple leaves. More than that, the hunger and its fulfillment became the dominant themes of the book I wrote about our first year in this beautiful, crumbling old house called Maplehurst.

The book is Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons. Here are a few more of the “four seasons” books that inspired my own:

A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell is a classic of this genre. Once, Hubbell was a married city-dweller who worked as a university librarian. In middle age, she finds herself living and working alone as a beekeeper on a remote farm in the Ozarks. These essays are quiet, contemplative, and slow, but they are also sharp, witty, and observant. I love this book because it reminds me that one of the most important things we can do in this life is to know a place, to love it well, and then invite others to see it through our eyes. That place might be a northern city or a Midwestern mountainside, but I know that I am richer for having seen the Ozarks through Hubbell’s eyes.

First published in 1967, TheShape of a Year by Jean Hersey is a vintage gem. I think I bought my hardback copy for one dollar plus shipping. It’s worth fifty times that.
Hersey was a garden writer, and this book observes the four seasons on her rural Connecticut property with curiosity and joy. This is a book all about the simple pleasures of the seasons. There is less human drama here than in Hubbell’there is always something happening.
s chronicle, and some might complain that nothing much happens, but Hersey knows what everyone with eyes to really see the world around then has discovered:

I love every memoir in Madeleine L’Engle’s series of Crosswicks journals. The IrrationalSeason, ostensibly book three though these don’t need to be read in order, begins with Advent and is shaped by the traditional calendar of the western church.
I appreciate L’Engle’s commitment to asking difficult questions. What I discover in all her books – but in the Crosswicks journals most of all – is that unknowing is not a scary place to be. L’Engle shows us that we can sometimes experience God’s presence in more beautiful and more comforting ways when we take the time to sit with the questions we do not have answers for.

Also, L’Engle’s family home, Crosswicks, has been described as a “farmhouse of charming confusion.” That, right there, is everything I hope for my own home. We have the confusion down pat. The charm is a work in progress.

Christie on the Web:

These Farmhouse Bookshelves (blog feature) 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Book Gush: 'Promised to the Crown' by Aimie K. Runyan

from the publisher:
In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony.

They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving—poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.

Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer’s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

guys guys guys! I loved, loved, loved this book! Loved it!   LOVED IT!   Seriously, loved it.

17th Century: France was a major power who wanted to extend their influence by populating and securing New France.  The King offered young women of various stations a dowry and an opportunity. Called The Filles du Roi these women of breeding age and strong constitution would sail to North America, marry the settlers already colonizing this brave, treacherous land and increase the population for the good of their home country.

The Filles du Roi have always fascinated me as we studied them in school.   Peeling back the curtain on the indubitably harsh and trying circumstances forging a life here in Canada amidst its terrible winters and harsh terrain, my imagination sought out romantic prospects.  It’s not unlike an early form of “The Bachelor.”

These women were marriageable commodities, yes, but also strong.  The women who survived were the ones who grabbed life by the reins and decided to use this strange new opportunity to secure a sense of purpose and happiness. For other women, what better way to escape?

A trio of women and a supporting cast of nuns, lovers, brothers, enemies, townspeople, husbands, populate the exceptionally written Promised to the Crown which is by far my favourite read of 2016 thus far.    Painstaking research, a lyrical tongue and an impressively sure handle on each of the three distinctive narratives as they intertwine and intersect are just a few of the reasons Runyan has weaved such a luscious canvas.

Rose, Elisabeth and  Nicole  forge a lasting friendship. For this is a woman’s space and what better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than with an example of women who were the stronghold and survival of a new populous.   There is a decidedly feminist aspect to a tale that could easily fall into a puddle of straight domesticity. For while women were very much homemakers and baby carriers, they were also the backbone of a culturally and socially developing society.   A favourite thread followed Elisabeth who marries Gilbert, a baker, because he will offer her equal business standing in his enterprise.      

Each woman is fully developed from their treacherous sea passage and the nods over their shoulder as they look behind on the life they leave: sometimes trailing its tragic ramifications with them.  From their earliest days in Quebec: entertaining suitors with pastries and cider to their marriages and growing families, Runyan has developed a woman’s sphere.      

I gobbled this book up: it had funny, strong moments and tragic, painful sighs of moments.   It perfectly adapted a foreign historical experience to a readable, accessible page.   Runyan sets you back centuries so you can smell the crackling hearths and feel the tang of the settling winter.   I cannot remember enjoying a historical experience this acutely … not for a long, long time. 

I really encourage you to expose yourself to a time period in history not often pursued in fiction. Runyan's research make her the perfect authoritative pen to transpose this experience to fiction and you will not be disappointed.   Friendship, romance, hardship and adventure dot each fabulous page! 

Pick this one up!  Amazon

my thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for the review copy 

Monday, March 07, 2016

Author Q and A : Cheryl Honigford

Recently, I read an e-galley of The Darkness Knows which is a fabulous start to a mystery series featuring a winsome radio star and Private Eye duo in 1930s Chicago.

I was delighted that Cheryl agreed to answer a few questions. I know my blog readers will love the zest and snap of the dialogue, the romantic tension and the intricate murder---not to mention the amazing setting !

1.) Most agents and publishers like a good "hook" when considering a novel. What was the hook for THE DARKNESS KNOWS?

It’s October 1938, and radio is king. Vivian Witchell is determined to be a star, and with her new role in the popular detective serial, The Darkness Knows, everything she’s dreamed of is finally within her grasp. Until, that is, Viv stumbles upon the body of the station’s biggest, and most reviled, actress in the employee lounge. Clutched in the dead woman’s hand is a threatening letter that targets Viv as the next victim. Suddenly, Viv’s biggest worry isn’t remembering her lines, it’s staying alive.

2.) One of the things I loved about the book was Viv's insistence on a career: despite her upbringing and the pressure from her society-obsessed mother to marry. The Darkness Knows did a wonderful job of painting a woman's plight in a "modern" society with some very traditional views still at the helm. Even though a new world was on the brink, warring women's roles were still a major issue. Was this an intentional layer in the story and something that you can see yourself exploring more in the next novels?

Yes, this was definitely intentional. You can’t get very far into research for the period before realizing what a woman’s role was supposed to be in 1938. I collect vintage women’s magazines and some of the ads are amazing. Dishpan hands were supposed to be a woman’s greatest worry, and don’t get me started on how they were using Lysol then… (Google it if you’re curious and not too squeamish about your lady bits.) Women didn’t have “careers” in 1938. They may have had jobs, but only if they absolutely had to and only until they found a husband. Then they were expected to promptly quit that job to take care of hearth and home. (In fact, that’s what the actress Vivian is replacing at the beginning of the book has just done.) Vivian can see how limiting this is and her becoming a secretary and then a radio actress is an attempt to buck that claustrophobic social structure (and infuriate her mother). To be fair though, Vivian’s wealth and social standing give her a lot of advantages that most women simply did not have then – like the luxury of being able to go to secretarial school out of spite. This theme of female independence will continue to be explored in the series – especially with the lead up to WWII and all that will mean for women’s changing roles in society.

3.) Radio Actress meets Sardonic yet good-hearted ( and dashing!) Private Investigator: How did these two characters come to be?

Well, Vivian was around first and then when I got the idea for her to be starring in a detective serial I thought it would be fun to play her off of an actual detective (and contrast that with the fictional detective ideal in The Darkness Knows, the radio serial). When Viv meets Charlie everything she thought she wanted flies right out the window - in a good way. J Their relationship is very much inspired by the Nick and Nora sort of bantering couples of 1930s screwball comedies.

4.) Your Chicago is to die for (okay pun intended)! So sumptuously painted with just the right amount of historical detail. I totally wanted to be at the masquerade at the Palmer, by the way. Did you intentionally use it as a starring character in the Darkness Knows or is that something that organically happened?

I wanted to be at that masquerade too! I love Chicago and I love that time period - and I think both are woefully underrepresented in fiction. I live in the far suburbs these days, but I spent 7 years in the Lakeview neighborhood and really got to know the city. I love history, in general, so even before I got the idea for this book I had already catalogued all of this random information in my head about the history of the city and the architecture. I really loved researching the details of the time period. It meant a lot of staring into old photographs and imagining how things looked, smelled, sounded. It was a different world, and I would give anything to sit in on a live broadcast of The Darkness Knows. So I guess, the answer is to your question is both - Chicago as a main character was organic and intentional at the same time.

5.) I wondered if you could give us any hints as to where we'll find Charlie and Viv next!

Book #2 (Fall 2017) is set a few months after The Darkness Knows - at Christmastime 1938. Vivian stumbles upon something that flips everything she thought she knew about her beloved (and now deceased) father on its head. Think Capone, speakeasies, and all of the shady activities that go along with that… Expect more radio station intrigue (especially with Viv’s star on the rise) and more historic Chicago detail woven throughout. And of course, Charlie is there to antagonize Viv and help her get to the bottom of things.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Author Q and A : Jaime Jo Wright


I have our friend Jaime Jo Wright answering a few questions about her new novella The Cowgirl's Lasso  part of The Cowboy's Bride Collection. You can buy the compilation here

Jaime ( in my own words) is a super spunky caffeine-addicted workaholic who may be wonder woman. Don't believe me? This woman is a power house manager and writer and wife and mother to two adorable kids.  She has an insatiable spark about her: be it in person or print  and is a delight on social media. 

I am so thankful she took the time to chat: 

1.) The book that made you want to be a writer ( if one )

Jane Eyre and then The House of Seven Gables, by Hawthorne. Both were the epitome of romance and dark and deliciousness. I devoured them, and then determined to be like their authors one day.

2.) Your best Starbucks experience

When my barista brought me a sample, then after delivering them to everyone in the shop, gave me the rest of the samples and then returned a few minutes later with a free grande "sample". They know I have a problem. :)

3.) How do you juggle working full time, raising two kids and writing?

I don't.
LOL I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if I'm imbalanced. A lot of writing sprints. 15 mins here, 30 mins there. I have to make my kids first and then write. Oh yeah. I'm married. Hmmm... better figure that into the equation ;)

4.) Is there a historical period you have not yet attempted in fiction that you would like to?

Yes! The '20's or '30's. I love that era. I just bought my first flapper dress actually this week. I look quite grotesque in it, but I shall wear it with pride to a gala this Friday and pretend I know how to Charleston

5.) Any insights into your research process?

I read. Lots of books. Fiction and non-fiction. I love looking up old newspaper articles. They're full of interesting stories because back then, they actually wrote interesting stories. Like the most recent one where the family watched their twenty-something daughter get struck by lightening as she fed the chickens in the chicken coop. They said her bobby pins melted to her head. I know. ew. But oh so fascinating.

6.) What was the most challenging thing about writing a novella?

It's ridiculously hard to write a decent story in 20,000 words. Cause really? Who falls in love THAT fast? I wanted my romance to be somewhat realistic. So it was difficult to have time pass and a relationship establish to the point of pledging lifelong love without seeming like she was being abducted into some subservient, domestic role and forced to fall "in love". LOL

7.) Any advice to writers who are not yet published on the agent and editorial experience?

Oh gawsh. Nothing can be more painful than that journey. There's so much self-doubt. My best piece of advice is learn to take constructive criticism and apply it. I see too many get hurt feelings or make justifications as to why they wrote what they did and why it's good how it is. No one means to say you're a bad writer, but if agents and editors (especially them!) give you feedback, use it! That's invaluable and it makes you teachable. They're in this career field after all, because they know how it works. So be humble enough to know that maybe you don't really know.

Find Jaime on the web

On Twitter 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Author Interview: Julianna Deering

 HUZZAH! I had the opportunity to chat with the amazing Julianna Deering about the most recent mystery in her super popular, amazing Drew Farthering series: Dressed for Death 

1.) You previously wrote Medieval romances. What jump-started the idea of Drew and your pursuit of finding him a publishing home?

I have for years (and years and years and years) loved Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. And the BBC series that are (mostly) faithful to their books just added fuel to the fire. After I wrote my medieval series (The Chastelayne Trilogy), I let life get in the way for a while and didn’t write at all. When I was ready to go at it again, I so much wanted to try my hand at my own mystery series. Of course, being the Anglophile I am, my amateur sleuth had to be a wealthy, stylish and witty young Englishman.

And who could I pair him with better than an equally wealthy, stylish and witty American girl? Even before my discovery of Agatha Christie, I enjoyed William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, the fashionable sleuthing couple from The Thin Man. There’s more than a little of them in Drew and Madeline. And I love including the subtle differences between British and American English in their dialogue.

I wasn’t sure if the manuscript for the first book in the series would ever find a publisher, but my agent loved it and was determined to sell it. It’s mostly due to her determination that Drew and Madeline ever made it to the bookstore shelf.

2.) Drew’s covers are amazing! Everyone knows and loves them. They’re especially revolutionary in the CBA: where live cover models are often used. Did you have any input on the design or is this the genius of Bethany ?

Bethany House was great about asking for my input on the covers. I love the style of them. It’s so very 1930s! But, besides a mention of this style early in the process, I didn’t come up with the idea at all. Bethany House brilliantly selected Faceout Studio and illustrator John Mattos to do the covers. In fact, my favorite one so far, Murder at the Mikado, won the 2014 ECPA Top Shelf award, the only novel on their list that year. I was so proud for them!

3.) You are such a prolific historical writer! Is there an era of history you would like to fictionally explore in the future?

Oh, man, nearly all of them! Right now, I’m leaning a little bit toward Regency or Gothic romance. I haven’t really written romance since my Chastelayne days, and I miss it. Being a big fan of Georgette Heyer (especially the audiobooks read by Richard Armitage (swoon!)), I’d love to give Regency a try. And I tend to want to make angsty heroes with tragic pasts have a happy ending, so Gothic seems a perfect fit, too. I think I want to do everything.

4.) I assume you are quite comfortable with Drew’s period now, having four books published that well-establish his historic world. Did any particular fun facts jump out at you when you were preparing to write Dressed for Death?
I always learn new things with every book. This time I learned a lot about what was eaten and worn and played during the Regency period, because the host of the party Drew and Madeline attend is very strict about not allowing anything modern. I also had to research the effects of an overdose of cocaine and how it might occur. That wasn’t nearly as fun, but it was necessary.

5.) The Mikado was a favourite of many and here we are with a Regency flavour! Beau Brummel, move over! What inspired you to add some Regency to Drew’s world?

I like to have a literary inspiration for each of Drew’s adventures. For Mikado, it was obviously Gilbert and Sullivan. For Dressed for Death, it’s the works of Jane Austen. Since Drew and Madeline are great readers, it’s very natural to have them quote a line or two from a favorite book that applies to whatever case they’re investigating. Plus, come on, Drew in Regency kit? I mean!

6.) Can you give us a hint as to where we might find Drew and Madeline next?

I’m just doing edits on Book Five, Murder on the Moor. This one is inspired by the Brontes with a touch of The Hound of the Baskervilles thrown in for good measure. Drew and Madeline go up to Yorkshire to investigate the murder of the local vicar and other strange happenings on the moor. I have a special fondness for this one because the rakish gamekeeper who may or may not be involved in the goings on just happens to look amazingly like Aidan Turner.

7.) I have such a crush on Drew! Who would play him in the BBC series ?

That’s a tough one for me, because I have this idea of what he looks like that isn’t anyone else. I certainly wouldn’t say no to Orlando Bloom or Richard Armitage in their younger days.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Post-Deadline films! books! theatre!

Catch up time!  I drowned under my Lesson in Love and Murder deadline; but I am finally coming up for air and seeing friends and doing things and reading and such!

I love Agent' Carter's Agent sousa 
Kinky Boots:

This is the most joyous show of all the shows. It really is amazing. I first saw it with my friend Melanie just after Christmas and my friend Krista was visiting from Halifax this past week for work so we went on a two for one deal .

Agent Carter:

I haven’t had a ton of television watching time these past months because I was on deadline for Lesson in Love and Murder and writing Of Dubious and Questionable Memory. So, when I wasn’t at my real job, I was writing. So much writing.

I did however, manage to work my way through the first season of Agent Carter and then just caught up on the second. I love Jarvis. And Sousa. And Peggy. I love that it is a super feminist show and I love that a core friendship is a platonic one between a man and a woman .


Reviewed this for our Breakpoint friends

Hail, Caesar: hilarious spoof of the technicolour big budget films ( read: Ben Hur) of the 1950s. Amazing celebrity cameos and carried by Josh Brolin who plays a Hollywood “fixer.” Lots of sly, tongue-in-cheek nods to classic Hollywood scandals.

Deluge by Lisa T Bergren: This ends the River of Time sequence in a heart-breaking, gorgeously evocative way . Lots of romance, birth and death as sisters Lia and Gabriella finally find temporary happiness with their super-hot Italian nobles. I just love typing Marcello. Bergren is an expert of historical verisimilitude and my brain hurts thinking about the amount of research that went into the creation of her world. The plague is explored in a gritty, grotesque and realistic way: as an enemy force that sparks battle and divide.

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance
is a potty-mouthed chicklit treat that I read in one sitting. With a truly marvelous heroine who ends up living with her grandmother: once a writer of those etiquette guides of the 60s. A classic makeover story with a surprise love twist. I truly didn’t know who she would end up with.

Dressed for Death: Julianna Deering

Deering does it again! I mean, the only thing better than a Drew Farthering book? : A DREW FARTHERING BOOK with a Regency flair!

I love the cozy, throw-back world with large, rambling estates and an Agatha Christie meets Dorothy L Sayers timbre.

I also really appreciate the development between Drew and the other characters populating his life: especially Madeline.

A smart, classy, high read with the manners of Downton with the clever turn of a Conan Doyle yarn.

Long live Drew!

(and these super awesome covers! )

The Darkness Knows
by Cheryl Honigford

First off, Honigford builds an effortlessly beautiful historical world: from the bridges criss-crossing the river to the broad, lit billboards, to the ins and outs of radio: the airwaves ruled the entertainment of the day and Viv's world is very much coloured within a studio!

This had a light, cozy feel to it: written with the tang of 1930's slang and the raucous optimism and fun of pre-War America. I loved that she never talked down to the reader: assuming that any little idioms, slang or personages of the time would be recognized by the reader. It helped create the sense that you were dropped right into Vivian and Charlie's world.

I also really liked the believable banter, chemistry and romantic hints between Charlie and Vivian (even though there's an Errol Flynn/Robert Taylor lookalike named Graham smooth-talking his way around the edges). Charlie is an ace private eye with a heart and an Archie Goodwin sense of humour that made me want to spirit him off for a night at the Flamingo Club.

An easy book to sink into with a great, winking sense of humour, a glistening old school Chicago of lights and liquor and fun and a hard-to-guess murder mystery.

I am EAGER to follow Viv and Charlie on their next adventure

Sawbones Melissa Lenhardt

I really love stories about women who step out expectations and make careers for themselves in a man's world.

The historical and medical research that went into this tale was impressive---as was the bold and inspiring heroine.

I completely different kind of historical, undercut with the visceral realities of a time and profession 

[ with the exception of Deluge, books provided by Netgalley on behalf of the publishers ]

Thursday, February 18, 2016

All Things Jem and Merinda

In less than 2 weeks, The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder  will release in all e-book forms.  After that, your local bookstores and print orders will trickle in! I super want to encourage you to think about the print book though because the interior design is amazing

a snapshot of the interior of Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder 

I wanted to use my blog space to kinda go all out Jem and Merinda and Jasper and Ray today.

I am kinda euphoric because I just turned in A Lesson in Love and Murder to my editor. I don't want to count my chickens, but it might turn out to be my favourite of the series. I really love it.  The girls go to Chicago and get wrapped up in all sorts of mystery and mayhem ---and anarchist bombs!  Theodore Roosevelt and Emma Goldman are our real life historical personages. And, Merinda finds herself in the midst of a bit of a love triangle when Benny Citrone of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police shows up ( much to Jasper Forth's chagrin).  Merinda, of course doesn't  do love triangles, so you'll have to check out how she reacts.
Also, I got to set some amazing scenes in some of my personal favourite buildings in Chicago.

a lot of ARC readers are talking about the Elgin and Winter Garden theatre which plays a HUGE part in the first book !

I am also beginning work on edits for Of Dubious and Questionable Memory: a novella sized adventure releasing on June 1.   In this exciting story, Jem and Merinda are lured State-side and to a mystery involving Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House.    

I visited Concord and Orchard House a few times last year for research <3

Finally, I have been so stoked that early readers have been reading and sharing the book.   The Goodreads giveaway is still running and you can go there to enter but also to read some early buzz! (see the widget on the side of my blog to enter directly)

Here are are just some early reviews:

Books for What 

The Well-Read Pirate Queen 

Relz Reviewz

Mikal Dawn  

The Green Mockingbird ( review AND interview)



So where do you want to order your Jem and Merinda?

Barnes and Noble 

Chapters Indigo 


Books A Million 



Also you can find it on iBOOKS but I cannot find the link---so search!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Cover Reveal: A Lady Unrivalled

Series Info

The Ladies of the Manor Series take readers back in time to Edwardian England, when automobiles and electric lights were all the rage, but the old way of life still ruling the land. Lords and ladies, maids and valets…and in this case, a dose of danger and mystery to take them all on their journey to love.

From Booklist on The Reluctant Duchess

"With the momentum and drama of a modern thriller and the charm and intrigue of an Edwardian upper-class romance, White balances hearty helpings of names, ranks, and family history with highly entertaining situations and plenty of humor."

White Is Quickly Becoming the Top Name in Edwardian Romance

Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile--even if it's just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well the danger that has haunted her brother and their friend, and she won't wait for it to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better.

Lord Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he's determined to live a better life. But that proves complicated when old friends arrive on the scene and try to threaten him into a life of crime. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won't budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her--and his daughter--from those dangerous people who seem ready to destroy them all?


Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna’s novels range from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. She lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at www.RoseannaMWhite.com

Links for A Lady Unrivaled

Thursday, January 07, 2016

lovely lovely books: a cornucopia of words as I clear out my netgalley shelf

So you guys know that I write my own books now, right?

Which makes it harder for me to write long, loquacious reviews --- but I do want to share some lovely books with you!

Carry Me Home (Blue Wren Shallows, #1)

Carry Me Home by Dorothy Adamek is a sweeping love story set in 19th Century Australia. It features some of my favourite romantic tropes: including a woman ahead of her time in a situation where she has to adapt quickly---proving her strength and indomitable spirit-- a romance borne of necessity and a marriage of convenience.   I immediately fell into the world --- a unique setting for me as I haven't read a ton of historicals set in Australia--- and in love with the characters.  
Perhaps the best part? Adamek has a deceptively easy style that lures you into what is (upon slow consideration) a natural writing talent: swift and beguiling and spinning a tapestry I know I want to return to.    Readers of Jody Hedlund: take note

Carry Me Home (Blue Wren Shallows, #1)

The Sweetest Rain by Myra Johnson   Here's an author I had never read before but the cover really enticed me as did the setting and the aftermath of the Great War and depression in Eden, Arkansas. This quiet romance is set on the brink of something and its sombre moments imply that this undercurrent is recognized.  The other reason I loved this book was Bryony and Michael's relationship.  Michael, a veteran of the Great War, is less than whole after his experience: attempting to cultivate beauty is true passion is botanical illustration.   You all must know that recluses with tortured pasts and botanical hankerings are big time Rachel catnip ( here's looking at you, Stephen Maturin).

[review copy: Franciscan Media]
The Farmerettes

The Farmerettes by Gisela Tobien Sherman is one of the strongest YA historicals I have read in an age.  It knits together the experiences of 6 young women during a memorable summer.   It's 1943 and while the men are at war, the women on the homefront are charged with keeping things running: the farms and fields, the food and rations as the nation supports the faraway conflict.
A steady and well-told coming-of-age story, Sherman paints each experience with a competent pen and the characters spring to life.     I loved this snapshot of an experience not always explored in fiction--especially fiction for teens.  To add, this book features strong female friendship: something else I love seeing in fiction.

[review copy: Second Story Press]

Lady of Magick (Noctis Magicae, #2)
Lady of Magick by Sylvia Izzo Hunter:   I kinda wanna say this will appeal to fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and of Naomi Novak.  There's a ton of romance in it which I love and Sophie and Gray are the type of couple that will set readers swooning.    I also have to confess that I read this sequence out of order , but am going back to the Midnight Queen.

Just to throw in another comparison: Hunter's golden-spired Oxford will put readers in mind of The Golden Compass.

[Review copy: Penguin/NAL]

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Most Anticipated Reads of 2016


The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch (August. Maybe. I think).

I think this is coming out in the summer? I mean, I hope!    I MEAN I AM DYING!  The wait between Red Seas under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves  was SO LONG so I am hoping that 2016 sees me hanging out with Locke and Jean!

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn  (September)

Veronica Speedwell and Stoker are back

A Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen  (March )
MOLLY MURPHY! I love her. Her husband Daniel drives me batty. Whatever.  Apparently Molly goes to San Francisco!

Flickers by Arthur Slade (August)

Honestly, it's been too long since I read a new Slade.  He's by far my favourite YA author in the world and I believe this book draws on his penchant for horror and spooks and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night

The Bridge of the Assassins by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Umm, I think this might be out! I mean, I am waiting for the English translation, yo.
It's a new Alatriste!   Well, not new, but since I don't read Spanish PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE someone translate this! Thanks!
Saint's Blood (Greatcoats, #3)

Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell  This is the third book in the Greatcoats series which is kinda  Dumas and kinda Firefly and I love it.

Fire by CC Humphreys
Plague was so good.I find myself thinking about the characters a lot and I am so eager for this next dark --and somewhat gruesome --adventure

This Lynn Austin Book I don't Know the Title of  by Lynn Austin

I love Lynn Austin.   I don't know the title of her book.  What the heck. Anyways, out this year a new Civil War set Lynn Austin! HUZZAH

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof (August)
I read this book already because Joanne was kind enough to let me and it was one of my favourite books of 2014.  It is beguiling and gripping and so beautifully rendered you will float on air.   She has such a delicate turn of phrase and her characters thrum flesh-and-blood to life.  


A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (February)

Her voice is so arresting: kind of like Natasha Pulley and Catherine Webb with a tinge of Gaiman.