Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Merry Farmer Interview, Fool for Love Excerpt, and Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to introduce you to today's featured author, Merry Farmer. Her books sound refreshingly entertaining and romantic. Merry has kindly taken time to answer my probing questions. I even asked Merry what advice she would give to aspiring authors. After the interview, Merry has kindly included an excerpt from Fool for Love and a GIVEAWAY for the first book in her Montana Romance series, Our Little Secrets! Now, let's meet Ms. Farmer!

Merry, tell us a little more about your newest release, Fool for Love.  

Fool for Love is the second book in my Montana Romance series, but I’ll tell you a little secret….  I actually came up with the idea for this one and wrote an embryonic version first, about ten years ago.  It’s the story of an American cowboy – a romance novel staple – and an English lady fallen on hard times – another romance staple, but usually not in the same book – who cross into each other’s worlds and fall in love. 

An American cowboy and English lady—sounds like an entertaining combination. What was your favorite part about writing your hero, Eric Quinlan, and your heroine, Amelia Elphick?

I loved writing Amelia because she gave me the chance to try something new, something that would be a challenge to me as a writer.  She’s already pregnant when the book starts and has been left by the lover who she had hoped would marry her to make things right.  Throughout the whole process of writing the novel I just wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be all right, because her self-esteem has taken a huge hit and she believes she is ruined.  I think we’ve all been there in our real lives.

Fortunately, Eric comes along.  I loved writing Eric because he is just so lovable.  He’s one of the kindest heroes I’ve ever written, but what made him such a treat to write was the fact that he doesn’t think he’s much of a hero.  He has his own personal struggles, but he also has a sense of humor and a way of talking that made him a joy to discover and to write.

Ooh, I do enjoy a hero who must face his own inner struggles and inadequacies.  What did you find most challenging when it came to writing or researching for Fool for Love?

The late Victorian era is one of my favorite periods of history, but it’s tricky because so many things were changing so fast, from technological innovations to personal attitudes to styles of dress, that I had to constantly check myself to make sure the things I was talking about had been invented and were in use.  A lot of people who haven’t studied history might be surprised about how advanced society was at the end of that century!

Does one need to have read your first Montana Romance, Our Little Secrets, to enjoy this novel?

I don’t think so.  I’ve gone to great efforts to make this novel stand alone.  But I do recommend reading Our Little Secrets first, if only because the big, gasp-inducing plot twist from Our Little Secrets is mentioned in the course of a conversation in Fool for Love, which spoils the surprise if you haven’t read it.  All things considered, though, if you don’t mind a spoiler, you could definitely read Fool for Love first.

What had you choosing Montana for the setting?

I’ve had a bit of a fascination with Montana for years.  Possibly since seeing the PBS reality show “Frontier House”, possibly even before that though.  It is the epitome of the Old West in my mind, and such a beautiful state too!

So far you have written historical romances from two completely different eras. Your Noble Heart series takes place in England shortly after the crusades during the Middle Ages. Your next series, Montana Romance, is set in the late 1800s in America. What is your favorite time period to write, and do you prefer America or England as your setting?

You know, I was just thinking about this and wondering if I should be limiting myself to one place and era of history.  My problem is that I love all of history.  I majored in history twice at two different universities because I wanted more after getting my first degree.  And I also remember devouring the books of Julie Garwood when I was younger, who took me from the West to England to Scotland in all sorts of times.  I love the idea of being an author about whom people ask, “Where are we going next?”

As for switching from the Middle Ages to Montana in the 1890s, it’s not as far of a stretch as you might imagine.  Both were periods of great development and change, both were more advanced than people assume, and Medievalism actually enjoyed a huge revival in the late Victorian era thanks to the Pre-Raphaelites.  I think they would have been interested in reading my medieval Noble Hearts series in Cold Springs, Montana 1896.

What’s your favorite part about researching for a new novel?

Reading history books!  I know, that makes me sound like a nerd (which I am).  I love having the chance to delve into a new era and to soak up all of the social history of that time as I can.  I’ve read some great non-fiction books in the last few years because of it.

From reading chapter one posted on your website, you surely do leave your readers hanging. *tsk tsk* I suggest you all head over to Merry’s site and read chapter 1. This series sounds intriguing. Are you currently working on book 3 in your Montana Romance series?

Yes, I am, although I have one other project to finish up first before I can really dive into it.  I’m also writing a novella that involves some of the minor characters of the world of Cold Springs while taking a step back from the four main books of the series.  I’m hoping to have the novella, Sarah Sunshine, ready by late this summer, and if I’m lucky, In Your Arms, the third Montana Romance book which centers around Christian Avery (yes, the man does actually have the capacity to fall in love) either very late this year or early in 2014.

Have you always been a writer? What is it that got you to take that leap to become an author and have your books published?

Yep, I have always been a writer.  I remember the magical feeling of learning how to write when I was in first grade, the pride I felt the day I learned to spell “grasshopper” (my longest word!).  I started writing stories in third grade, when I was 10, and haven’t stopped since.  My childhood wasn’t an easy one for many reasons and I both read and wrote to escape and to entertain myself and my friends.

I toyed around with the idea of publishing about ten years ago or so, but something about the publishing world and the process didn’t sit well with me.  I attended some conferences, submitted to about a dozen agents, and then dropped the whole thing.  I just wanted to write!  Then about two years ago, when I was at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, the buzz was all about self-publishing.  I knew that was the right fit for me.  It gave me the independence and self-accountability that I need to be motivated.  So I hired an editor to work with me on The Loyal Heart (first in my Noble Hearts series and my first published book) and the rest is history!  I do still entertain the idea of taking a step back and trying the traditional publishing route, but I waffle so much about it that it’s not even funny!  And I just want to write!

Recently, several of my readers made mention that they would love to someday write and publish their first work. What advice would you give emerging authors?

Write!  I know that seems trite, but it’s what you need to do.  Write everything, from original novels to fan fiction to poetry, if the spirit moves you.  You learn so much by writing, and if you don’t have finished work to publish, well, the next step is impossible.  I also recommend hiring a professional editor to work with you.  Friends are nice (too nice), beta-readers are helpful, but there is no education more valuable than what you will experience working with a professional editor.  I owe just about everything I know to my editor.  What she taught me about the craft was as magical as writing “grasshopper” for the first time. 

Then, once you’ve done that, do a little research to find out which publishing means is right for you.  The answer isn’t always going to be traditional publishing and it’s not always going to be self-publishing.  Both have their advantages and drawbacks.  But keep an open mind toward both.  I hear about self-published writers who want to go traditional quite a bit (I might be one of them, not sure) but I’ve also started hearing stories of traditionally published mid-list authors leaving their contracts and “going indie”.  No one knows what the future of publishing looks like, so embrace all of it!

Oh, and one more thing: Be nice!  This is a small world and I have it on good authority – not to mention personal experience – that the industry wants to work with nice people and it will back away from mean, discourteous, and selfish people.  Deal kindly and honestly with your fellow writers and readers and help each other out whenever possible.

Great advice, Merry! I’m sure if my readers have any further questions, they will post them in the comments section.

Thank you so much, Merry, for allowing me to interview you about your newly released novel, Fool for Love. It was a pleasure having you on Leatherbound Reviews. I wish you the best of luck with this series, and I look forward to reading it!

Thanks Jakki!  It was my pleasure.

From the publisher:
Eric Quinlan was born a cowboy and a rancher and intends to die a cowboy and a rancher.  But when his ranch is in danger of failing, he travels to the wilds of London looking for a business deal to save it.  What he finds there are stuffed shirts, odd manners, and a damsel in distress.

Amelia Elphick’s life is over.  She may have been born a lady, but when she finds herself jilted by a lover who leaves her pregnant and refuses to marry her, she seems destined for a life on the streets.  When her employer’s rough but handsome houseguest, Eric, offers to rescue her from ruin, she has no choice but to say yes, even if it means moving halfway around the world.

But Amelia finds herself saying yes to more than a ticket west.  What starts with a harmless lie tangles Amelia and Eric in a web of desire and deceit that exposes passions and turns their worlds upside-down.  Eric believes Amelia holds the key to saving his beloved ranch and giving him the family he always wanted, but can he save her from the demons of her past without losing himself in the process?

People do foolish things when they’re in love….

Excerpt from Fool for Love:

“Miss Elphick,” Mr. Quinlan began.  He stopped twirling his hat with a long, drawled, “Yeeeaaah.” 
Amelia could do nothing but stand there, her brain foggy from shock and tears and betrayal. 
Mr. Quinlan cleared his throat, pulling her attention back to him.  He shifted his weight to his other leg, let his arm drop, hat in one hand, and looked her in the eyes.  She had never seen a man so anxious, as if he was the one in utter disgrace.
“Look, I’m really sorry about everything that happened last night.”
Amelia lowered her head.  “I … I am so sorry you had to witness that, Mr. Quinlan.”
“Yeah, well so am I,” he mumbled.  “That Mr. what’s-his-name was a total ass, treating a lady like that.”
She looked up, her stomach twisting.  “Oh no, sir,” she corrected him.  “I’m afraid I was the one in the wrong.”  It was all she could do not to choke on the words.  “Mr. Hayworth was perfectly within his rights to react as he did.  I … I am not a lady, I-”
“If he had tried that where I come from,” Mr. Quinlan interrupted, striding across the room to her, “he woulda had about a dozen men all over him.  It’s pitiful to dismiss a lady such as yourself like that.”
An ironic smile twitched at the corners of Amelia’s mouth.  “I’m afraid you misunderstand, Mr. Quinlan.  I … I am a fallen woman now.  My disgrace is complete.  It was not my place to cause a scene.”
He puffed an annoyed sigh and threw his hands out, narrowly missing a vase of hothouse flowers with his hat.  “You know, I never understood you English people and your ‘places’.  A lady’s a lady as far as I’m concerned.”
“But my family,” she fumbled, no desire to explain the past.
“Your father did something bad, I dunno,” he finished for her, his tone not caring.  He paced a few steps to a small table and fingered the edge of it, picking at an invisible spot.  He flicked his hair out of his face and darted a glance out the window at a passing carriage.  Amelia bit her lip as she watched his antics.
Finally, he shook his head and turned away from the pouring rain outside the window.  “Well, this isn’t how I wanted to start things.” 
Amelia fidgeted with her skirt.  “Start what, Mr. Quinlan?”
He ran a hand through his hair and paced back to where Amelia stood.  When he reached her, swaying too close for a moment then backing off a step, he screwed up his mouth as if something were trying to escape from it and he wasn’t sure if he should let it out or keep it in.  His back and shoulders were stiff as he glanced to Amelia, then at the floor, out the window, and back to Amelia again.  It struck her that his awkward ways were uncommonly charming.
As soon as the dangerous thought entered her mind, she pushed it away.
Finally Mr. Quinlan sighed and let his tension drop.  “It’s like this.” 
Amelia raised her wary eyes to meet his. 
“I suppose a fine lady like you is mighty attached to a fancy place like this, but I understand that you’re in a heap of trouble after last night and got no place to go.  Now, I know it’s short notice, but I’m leaving London to head back to Montana tomorrow and I was wondering if, well, if you might want to come with me.”
Amelia’s sore eyes widened.  Her breath caught in her throat.  “Go with you?” 
“To Montana?”
He shifted.  “I’ll pay for your passage and all.  I don’t mind doing it at all after what I saw last night.  It seems to me that you’re pretty much sunk here.  But Montana is just lousy with opportunity these days, even for women.  Cold Springs could use a smart, pretty girl like you, and ... and, well, that’s it.”  He ended his speech by blushing and lowering his head, looking up at her through his lashes.
Amelia’s heart fluttered, but it had nothing to do with Mr. Quinlan’s charm. 
Montana.  It was a world away, a world where no one knew about her father drinking away his fortune and leaving his wife and daughters to make their own way.  It was a world where no one knew how her mother had positioned herself and two of her daughters in rich men’s beds so that they could continue to afford the luxuries they were dependent on.  Most importantly, it was a world where no one knew how she, Amelia Elphick, had foolishly thought going to a man’s bed would solve all of her problems.

Merry Farmer has offered up one copy of Our Little Secrets, the first novel in her Montana Romance series, for giveaway. To enter, please leave a comment for Merry asking her a question or telling her what intrigues you about Fool for Love. Make sure you leave your email address so I know how to contact the winner. Tweet daily for extra entires (leaving a comment you tweeted).
*ebook will given to international winner. US winner will have reader's choice: paperback or ebook!*
Giveaway ends Monday, May 6! Best of luck! 

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Guest Post: All the Appearance of Goodness by Maria Grace

Author Maria Grace is visiting Leatherbound Reviews today as part of her blog tour for her latest release, All the Appearance of Goodness. I have quite enjoyed the first two books in her Given Good Principles series, and I am looking forward to reading this one later this summer. Without further ado, I am going to turn it over to Grace. 

Thanks, Jakki for hosting me on my blog tour for All the Appearance of Goodness, the third installment in the Given Good Principles series. I always like to add bonus material for my books for the online audience. So here’s the very first peek at the epilogue for All the Appearance of Goodness.

All the Appearance of Goodness: Epilogue

 Eighteen months after Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding, Pemberley estate, Derbyshire

A petite young woman stood silhouetted against the rising sun.  Her warm woolen coat hid her increasing belly to all but the most observant witnesses. The morning mist caressed her face, welcoming her into the quiet church yard.  From the window of the grey stone parish church, her observer watched the vigil, repeating a common ritual. A familiar pull tugged at the vicar’s heart.  John Bradley pursed his lips and nodded his grey head.    

He donned his coat reached for his cane, his familiar wintertime friend. The gnarled wooden knob fit his calloused hand, reminding him of years gone by, but those reflections would wait until later.    He looped his new muffler, knitted for him by Pemberley’s mistress, around his neck and pulled on his wide brimmed hat. Now he was ready to face the cold morning air. Ordinarily, he would not have been so diligent in his preparations, but the young woman would scold him relentlessly if he did not. He smiled to himself and pushed the heavy wooden door open.  A chill wind buffeted him as he stepped into the morning.  He pulled the muffler tighter around his neck.   How dear were the hands that had crafted the thoughtful gift.  The entire estate benefited greatly from her presence.

He approached with deliberate, unhurried steps. There was plenty of them for reflection and contemplation this morning. She did not turn when he stopped beside her. For several minutes they stood in silence, side by side, contemplating the neat graves, two long set, two others much more recent, but showing signs of settling into the quiet repose of the family resting place.

“I can hardly believe they are gone.” Her voice was brittle in the morning breeze.

“It is always a tragedy to lose a babe before he is churched,” Bradley touché her shoulder softly. “I buried my daughter and her son before he was churched. I understand.”

She turned to him, tears trickling down her cheeks. “I am so sorry that you do. I would not wish this pain on anyone.” She looked back at the graves and dabbed at her face with her handkerchief. “I never expected to lose them, and so close together. Who would have thought?”

He shook his head.

She wrapped her arms around her belly. “I think I would be more afraid of my coming confinement if it were not for your comfort.”

“I am grateful to have been service.”

The iron gate screeched. No amount of oiling or mending seemed to change its familiar greeting.   It closed again, the clang echoing against the church wall and gravestones.  A tall, young man carrying a quiet baby in his arms. The child gazed up at the him with a smile and sparkling eyes.

“I think Bennet was pleased to go with me this morning,” Darcy stood beside his wife and Bradley. “His parents were pleased to know he was so content in their choice of caregivers whilst they visit Meryton.”

“I do believe you are correct, sir. He seems in quite good spirits.” Bradley reached up to pat the boy’s cheek, allowing the child the grab  his finger and try to shove it in his mouth. “He is a dear child with such a sweet disposition.”

“He reminds me of his mother,” Elizabeth murmured, stroking Bennet’s back. “She was a very sweet baby.”

Darcy laid a warm hand on her shoulder. “Mary will be a good mother to him in her stead.”

“And he will be a good son to her and Pierce.” She looked up at him lovingly. “They all have you to thank for that.”

Darcy shook his head, “She was my sister; I could have done no less.  Would that I could have done more.”

“What more was there to do?” She shrugged. “After she eloped with Lt. Harris she could not return to Meryton, much less return as a widow, near to her confinement. The scandal would have destroyed my mother.” She leaned her head on his shoulder. “And it was you who insisted she be buried here, near the place where she found comfort in her last months.”

Bennet squirmed and reached out for his aunt. 

She took him from Darcy and kissed the baby’s cheek. “He is such a cheerful boy, so much like Lydia.  She was such a comfort to Mary, both of them sharing their confinement together.”

“It was difficult to watch Mary struggle so.” Darcy straightened his coat. He gazed at the marble cherubim standing guard over his parent’s graves.

“She was so hopeful after Lydia delivered so easily. After two day of travail, I was sure we would lose her, not Lydia.” Elizabeth cuddled Bennet closer. “After all that, it seemed so cruel that Mary’s son never took his first breath.”

“No, dear, it was a mercy.” Darcy shuddered slightly. “The child could not have lived long and watching him die slowly would have been worse.”

“I do not think Mary would have lived if Bennet had not needed her so desperately.” Elizabeth glanced back at Bradley.

“I am grateful I did not have to bury another daughter that day.” Bradley swallowed hard. “Instead, I have a grandson, Bennet Bradley Harris Pierce. The boy has almost as many names as you, Darcy.” He took the baby from Elizabeth. “God has been good to us. And God willing, in the summer, little Bennet will start to welcome his cousins.”

 “It is still difficult to imagine Richard a father.” Darcy laughed.

“I suppose he says the same of you.” Elizabeth arched her eyebrow at him.

“That he does. He might be insufferable if he had been the first to produce an heir but since we attribute that honor to Pierce now, his pride is under good regulation.”

“I just received a letter from Louisa and one from Kitty. It seems there will be more cousins to welcome in the fall.”

“Now Bingley I can picture as a father! I remember well watching him and Kitty playing with the Gardiner’s children. I think I envied his ease with them.”  

“In that, I believe little Bennet has done you a world of good. You are quite comfortable with him now.” Lizzy twined her fingers in his as she looked up at him.

They reminded Bradley so much of George and Anne Darcy. They would have been proud of the man Darcy had become. It was good to have Pemberley manor filled with the smiles and sighs of love once again.

Elizabeth peeked at Bradley. She giggled and broke away, taking the baby back.

“You are all men of good principles. I am grateful that I have been allowed to be here to help pass them on yet another generation.” Bradley straightened his coat and his muffler.

“As are we, sir.” Lizzy leaned over and kissed the vicar’s cheek.

From the publisher:
What is a young woman to do? One handsome young man has all the goodness, while the other the appearance of it.  How is she to separate the gentleman from the cad?

When Darcy joins his friend, Bingley on a trip to Meryton, the last thing on his mind is finding a wife. Meeting Elizabeth Bennet changes all that, but a rival for his affections appears from a most unlikely quarter. He must overcome his naturally reticent disposition if he is to have a chance of winning her favor.

Elizabeth’s thoughts turn to love and marriage after her sister Mary’s engagement. In a few short weeks, she goes from knowing no eligible young men, to being courted by two. Both are handsome gentleman, but one conceals secrets and the other conceals his regard. Will she determine which is which before she commits to the wrong one?

Author Bio:
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six cats, seven Regency-era fiction projects and notes for eight more writing projects in progress. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.

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