Then vs. Now: 1950s version

Writing three stories set in 1958 was as much a challenge in many ways as it was fun and different. There was so much research to do, despite the fact that I’ve always loved the fifties’ movies and music. I had to learn the slang, the fashions, and all about old-school Las Vegas. I drew on books, websites, and people’s recollections. I thought I’d share a little then vs. now with you today because the second book in my Viva Las Vegas trilogy, My Big Fat Vegas Wedding, is on pre-order and releases Tuesday.

Cool It, Daddio

The way of speaking was very different. People spoke a little more formally in most instances and their slang was very different. We know words like dude, lit, and on fleek. We all know what these words mean–by definition, slang is a shorthand way of speaking that changes the original meaning of the word(s).

Back in the 50s, people didn’t say someone was crazy–they said loony. A depressing person was “bad news,” a cool person was “hip,” and a clock was a “face.” I looked at some of those words and the meanings have changed today (“deuce” was a 1932 Ford) and some have remained the same, like when someone is being a “drag.”

Be a Man

Gender roles. Wow, as much as we bemoan how women haven’t come nearly far enough in equality (and we haven’t), the 1950s were an entirely different beast.

Back then, women went to college mainly to land a husband (if they hadn’t already done so in high school). Their studies weren’t important because they weren’t really expected to work and, if they did, it was usually only until they were married. A woman’s place was in the home, making sure her husband had a hot meal and his slippers. (I’m sorry, but gag me–his slippers!? Okay, back to the post.) Check out Housekeeping Monthly’s “Good Wife’s Guide.”

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.

Conversely, men were required to be masculine at all times. There was no place for crying or sentimentality in a man’s world. If someone stepped over the line, they were more likely to use violence to settle their differences. I’m definitely glad things have changed since then (albeit, again, not enough).

My Big Fat Vegas Wedding: Viva Las Vegas, Book 2

So, now, let’s talk about the book. It was fun to write alphas who could go a little farther into alpha territory without being a jerk because times were different. People had different expectations and ideas about what was acceptable. In this book, especially, my heroine is very much a woman of her time. Grace is classy, despite being poor, and has ideas about how to behave properly (which Dominic is constantly pushing her beyond). Here’s the blurb:

He needs roots. She needs money. A whirlwind wedding could solve all their problems…if it doesn’t bring the Vegas mob down on their heads.

Grace Winters needs a miracle in the form of cash. A young widow with a stack of bills and a dead-end job, she’d do anything to save herself, her son, and her mother from the street. Anything but gamble—the Vegas vice that got her husband killed.

Dominic Rosas needs a happy family—or at least the appearance of one—to buy out his father’s shares in the Lucky Star Casino, ousting the vicious man and avenging his sister. When he finds himself wildly attracted to a down-on-her-luck waitress with a stubborn will and a sharp sense of humor, a hasty marriage seems the obvious solution to both of their problems.

To Grace, Dominic seems too good to be true, a kind man with money to burn and an inner strength a world away from her gambling-addicted husband. They share a spark she’s never felt before, giving her hope that maybe this time marriage might work. But when she finds out he’s investing in the Lucky Star, the mob casino where her husband gambled away their future, the dream crashes around her. Dominic swears he can invest in the casino, avenge his sister, and keep her safe, but Grace fears she’s placed her bets on the wrong man—again.

Find it on Goodreads.

Want to pre-order?

Amazon | iBooks | Google Play | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

An Exclusive Excerpt

The house was small and old. The steps up to the porch were crumbling away. Dominic tried to get his pitch ready in his head, like he would for work, but the words all jumbled together. Odd, because he never got nervous before a big pitch.

Grace came back with two glasses. He took one and sipped because his throat had suddenly gone dry. Water with a faint taste of lemon did nothing for his parched throat. Somehow, he still pushed forward.

“I need roots,” he said.

“I don’t know what that means.” She shook her head. Of course she did, because that didn’t make any sense. He was starting at the end instead of the beginning.

He paused, trying to decide where, exactly, to begin. “Let me sum up what I know about you. Please, Grace.”

With a slow breath, she glanced inside the quiet house, then gave him a terse nod.

Okay, he could do this. “You’re a widow, trying to care for your son and mother. Your son is a handful, probably because he doesn’t have a father around.”

Her eyes flashed. He’d made her angry, but he was too far in to stop now. He went on. “You can’t seem to make ends meet, no matter how hard you try. And you always look fragile and exhausted. Am I wrong?”

“I’m not fragile. If I were fragile, I would’ve broken by now. But other than that…no. You’re not wrong. What is this?”

“Please, listen. Let me tell you about me. I have more capital—money—than I’ll ever use because my grandfather was brilliant at investing it.”

“How lovely for you.”

And, I’m trying to buy into the company my father uses for income because he tried to steal from my sister. Worse than that. He tried to have her put away.”

“I remember.” Her voice was soft as she picked up her untouched lemonade, then took a drink.

“They turned me down. They want me, but only if I’m married—a family man.” He took a deep breath. This was it. “I want yours. I want you.”

She stood, stumbling a little on the table legs. “That’s crazy. You should go.”

“No, it’s perfect.” He rose and took a step closer. “We each need what the other has. I can take care of all of you. I’ll buy you a nice house. You can pick it out. You said you didn’t want eventful, but I don’t believe you. You need eventful or you won’t make it.”

Still Not Sure?

You can read the first chapter here. Until next month, I’m wishing you all a happy and proper Spring (with maybe a little less snow?)

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Diversity in Romance #change #readingnewauthors

Greetings Readers

Welcome to spring. It’s officially the end of the first quarter of the year — where does the time go? Too many books and not enough time. Speaking of books, that’s what I want to talk about today, diverse books.

First, before I get started this is not a post on a soapbox, just a post about personal change. Over the last four years I’ve started joining in on the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I say how many books I’ll read and then through the course of 12 months I record via Goodreads what I read and what I didn’t.  One thing I noticed, I was reading the same authors. Now, don’t get me wrong, once I find an author I’ll mine their backlist or buy whatever they put out. But I realized most of the books I was picking up were by white authors.  Is this bad? I don’t necessarily think so, but in today’s climate, political and social I kept experiencing the same messages:

“Be the change you wish to see in the word.” – Gandhi

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. No message could’ve been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.” – Michael Jackson

Those words, they mean a lot and they come from a place of purity. That being said, one of my personal reading goals for 2018 is to read more books by authors of color. So, far I’m batting about 50/50 and I’ll admit it’s changing how I view other books. I’m looking for diversity in my stories now, looking for the melting pot we live in. I’m trying to be mindful of how I plot my own stories and educating myself in the process.

But back to the books, I’ve found some fun gems and new author’s to read.

Alyssa Cole’s A Princess in Theory about a STEM heroine who falls for a Prince.

Mia Sosa’s Pretending He’s Mine with super hunky, sexy Julian a Hollywood agent and the best friend’s little sister trope. Too bad little sister Ashley is harboring a serious crush.

Alisha Rai’s last book in her Forbidden Hearts series, Hurts to Love You. It’s like diverse Dynasty and I ate it up.

Books on my radar:

  • Vanessa Riley’s first book in the Blackamoor Brides series, The Bittersweet Bride
  • Courtney Milan’s upcoming release, After The Wedding.
  • Hold Me by Courtney Milan
  • The Lady Sherlock Series by Sherry Thomas
  • FIT series by Rebekah Witherspoon
  • The Lawyer’s Luck by Piper Huguley

Now that I’ve regaled you with my list. What’s on your TBR? Any diverse authors or stories I need to check out?

 

 

 

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Novel Settings

At the moment, I am plotting a book. If you’ve read my books, you know I don’t get excited about the typical setting for historical romance, the London ballroom. I love the lesser known places, the slightly wild and occasionally remote–Durham, Northumberland, the Lake District, Yorkshire, the northern coast of Maine. That’s where my heart lies.

The first book in my new series is set in the 1850s in Kendal, Cumbria, the southernmost gateway to what is now Lake District National Park.

Kendal Castle, which I visited in October. (HSG’s very own Nina Croft used to play in these ruins when she was a child.)

So when plotting the second book, it’s been fun to peruse maps and the web for an even wilder and more remote spot, isolated, in a crumbling castle within which is hidden treasure beyond price. These are my contenders:

The Isle of Skye (off the west coast of Scotland):

Isle of Skye. By John Allan [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

An as-yet-undetermined location near Hadrian’s Wall:

Hadrian’s Wall between Housesteads and Once Brewed (fabulous name!). By Michael Hanselmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 County Powys, Wales:

Looking through one of the remaining walls of Castell Dinas Brân towards the north east. Source: Wikipedia.

Lundy Island, off the coast of Devon:

Four Celtic inscribed stones from Beacon Hill cemetery, Lundy. By Grantus4504 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons.

The Yorkshire Dales:

Swaledale. By Kreuzschnabel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, GFDL or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons.

I might come up with something entirely different in the end–it’s often more fun (and okay, easier) to look for settings than to actually write the book. 🙂

Writers: how do you come up with your settings?

Readers: What kinds of settings do you like the most? Civilized cities, or natural places? Glittery ballrooms or spooky castles?

And which one do you think I should choose? I’ll give away an ecopy of one of my books–your choice–to a randomly selected commenter!

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Release Day for Tempting Mr. Jordan!

Today is release day (happy dance!) for Tempting Mr. Jordan, an historical romance set primarily in Maine in 1871.  The heroine in this book is Julia Tenwick, who we last saw in Stirring Up the Viscount as the hero’s precocious little sister. Now she’s all grown up, and heads off to America for one last adventure before settling in to life as a spinster and doting aunt to her brother’s children.

As usual in romances, she meets a man who throws a wrench in her plans–the arrogant, reclusive painter from northern Maine, Geoffrey Jordan. Geoffrey isn’t based on any one person, but I imagine him a curious hybrid of John Thornton (played to swoonworthy perfection by Richard Armitage) from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Frederic Edwin Church, a 19th century American painter who spent a lot of time in Maine, and any number of arrogant, talented men I’ve met in my life. There have been a few…

One of my favorite scenes in the book comes from a sketch I saw at the Cleveland Museum of Art a couple of years ago. It was in an exhibition called “Maine Sublime,” which featured landscapes by Church and other members of the Hudson River School. In it, there was a sketch he used to paint one of his more famous paintings, Twilight in the Wilderness.

Twilight in the Wilderness, Frederic Edwin Church, 1860

Twilight in the Wilderness, Frederic Edwin Church, 1860

I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of the sketch at the museum, and I can’t find it online, but it looked a bit like this one:

Sketch by Frederic Edwin Church, 1853

Sketch by Frederic Edwin Church, 1853

It was a rough sketch of the scene, accompanied by the names of colors here and there. Church used descriptive sketches like these to paint later. It inspired me so much I hurried home to write this scene:

Marin McGinnisJulia pulled her cloak around her shoulders and left by the kitchen door. Soft snowflakes danced lightly around her head as she made her way toward the water. She loved the crisp air, the snow, the scents of wood smoke, salty waves, and pine. She walked around toward the lighthouse, imagining how much her brother would love it here. He’d have his sketchbook tucked under his arm, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice when the mood struck.

The snow began to fall faster, swirling around as she clambered over the large rocks at the water’s edge. The sky was streaked with red, orange, blue, and gray, and she stopped, perched, just to watch.

“Get out of the way!”

She jumped at the strident tone, nearly toppling into the water. Regaining her balance, she turned carefully, and sighed.

Geoffrey Jordan sat on a neighboring rock behind her, sketchbook in hand. His expression was darker than the sky had been when she started on this walk. Julia was unable to stop herself from stepping back in surprise. Apparently there were bears near the shore as well.

“You’re blocking my view.” The muscles of the man’s face settled into a grimace which Julia found only marginally less frightening than his scowl.

“All right, I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there.” Julia took another step back and cried out in pain as her foot slipped into a crevice between the rocks.

Geoffrey swore and tossed his sketchbook to the side. He strode over to her and held out a hand.

Given his expression, Julia considered whether it might be safer to remain where she was. Geoffrey stuck his hand out again, waving it impatiently.

Julia finally realized she was more annoyed than afraid. “How am I supposed to grab your hand when you wave it about like that?”

“Oh, for God’s sake!” He reached down with both hands and grabbed her waist, pulling her to her feet. She ignored the tingling of her skin where he touched her and focused on her anger instead.

“I don’t know why you’re so angry at me. It’s not my fault I fell. You startled me.”

“You stepped into my line of sight. And now the sunrise is nearly gone, I’ve missed it, and it’s entirely your fault.”

Julia realized his hands still rested on her hips, and she pushed them away. “You sound like a petulant child.”

He returned to his sketchbook and sat down again. He started scribbling, ignoring her. She ignored him as well and gingerly ran a hand over her throbbing ankle. Her stocking was torn, and a shallow cut showed through it. Deciding she should return home to clean the wound, thanks to this odious man, she slowly made her way across the rocks past him. She caught a glimpse of his sketch as she passed. Intrigued, she stopped and bent at the waist, looked over his shoulder.lighthouse-1039189_1920

“You’re barely drawing anything at all. What does that say?”

He scowled again, but he answered, “Scarlet.”

She pointed at the corner of the drawing. “And that?”

“Azure. I thought all proper English ladies could read.”

“Your handwriting is terrible. What does that say?” She pointed again.

“Orange.”

She peered closer. “It does not. It looks like ‘crindle.’”

He laughed, and she turned her head to look at him. He was much less frightening when he laughed. Handsome. She blinked and unbent.

“‘Crindle’? What on earth does that mean?”

Her cheeks warmed. “Well, I don’t know, do I? It’s your drawing.”

“And it says ‘orange.’ What are you doing out here anyway?”

“I wanted to go for a walk.”

“At the crack of dawn?”

“I didn’t think I would see anyone.”

“Why didn’t you want to see anyone?”

She sighed. “Because conversation tires me, sometimes. This one in particular.”

“I don’t disagree.” He stroked his pencil across the paper a few more times, and she craned her neck to look.

“Why didn’t you just paint the sunrise? Why describe it?”

sky-1599469_1920“Because the sunrise is a fleeting thing. It never lasts long enough for me to paint it, so I sketch the scene and write the names of the colors, to jog my memory when I am in my studio.”

Julia turned to look at the sky. It was gray now, with little wisps of blue and white streaked across it. All of the stunning red and orange hues were gone. She suddenly felt terrible for ruining his view.

“I am sorry I got in your way. I don’t suppose you could try again tomorrow?”

He shrugged. “A sunrise like that one is rare.”

Now she felt even worse. “Well, I am sorry.”

“Where did you think you were going? The rocks lead out into the water, and the tide will be in soon. What if you’d fallen when I wasn’t here to help? You’d have drowned.”

Shame was quickly replaced by annoyance. “I wouldn’t have fallen if you hadn’t startled me!”

“Well, it was careless.”

Julia placed both hands on her hips and stared at the insufferable man. “You haven’t a very high opinion of my intelligence, have you?”

“I have no opinion of your intelligence at all. I think you take risks that a lady shouldn’t take.”

“I was hardly doing pirouettes out here! I would have been fine if you hadn’t yelled at me.”

“I didn’t yell at you.”

“Yes, you did!”

“Fine! I’m sorry I yelled at you. Now go home, before you truly hurt yourself.” Before she could reply, he tucked his sketchbook under his arm, stood, and scrambled away across the rocks like a crab.

She watched him go, annoyed with him and herself in equal measure. Well, mostly with him. Insufferable man. She gingerly followed, lifting her skirts higher to avoid the rising water. The tide was indeed coming in.

She hated that he was right.

You can read more about Tempting Mr. Jordan–including buy links, should you be so inspired–at my website. And should you find yourself in northeast Ohio, you can see the original of Twilight in the Wilderness, which hangs in Gallery 206 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Perhaps it will inspire you too.

And if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads, you can enter to win this great Maine-themed gift box, offered by me and author Becky Lower.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Falling Down the Christmas Romance Rabbit Hole

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays and my favorite thing to do at Christmas, besides watch Christmas movies or bake cookies is read Christmas romances. There is nothing like a good Christmas romance anthology. Over the years I’ve read many, and each season a new one becomes available for the masses.

There’s the historicals, which are always marvelous because who doesn’t love seeing how in a time when couples had difficulty falling in love in the first place, let alone being alone together, a pair of romantically matched people find themselves declaring love for one another in less than forty thousand words.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Christmas in the Duke’s Arms by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen ~ All the tales occur around an inn, in a small town. My favorite is a friends to lovers tale. twg-final-large

The Heart of Christmas by Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick, and Courtney Milan ~ Delicious romance with rakes, benefactors, and unlikely heroes

All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke by Valerie Bowman, Vivienne Lorret, Tiffany Clare, and Ashlyn Macnamara ~ Dukes. Need I say more?

I’m mighty proud of the fact I’ve offered you stories by 11 different Historical romance authors, and they are all fabulous. This is just the tip of the romance iceberg because several other historical authors offer up full-length Christmas tales, including an entire series from Theresa Romain, which right now they are all together as a Holiday Pleasures Bundle in an ebook steal deal.

Then I have that ‘but wait; there’s more’ moment. Because I haven’t discussed contemporary romance. There is plenty of holiday joy to be shared around there. The ones I fell in love were the typically full length and the run the gauntlet from sweet to steamy. Regardless, they are all romances and feature Christmas in some capacity.

A few more favs:

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis ~ first in the Lucky Harbor series.maybe-this-christmas

Last Chance Christmas by Hope Ramsey ~ part of the Last Chance series.

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan ~ a friends to lovers tale and part of her Snow Crystal series.

And, if you haven’t heard a fellow HSG blogger/author, Jennifer Shirk has her latest release in the Christmas contemporary romance category. Check out Wrong Brother, Right Match. A shameless plug, but I’ve already got it pre-order and on my list of holiday romances to indulge in.

Of course, as with all things, these are just a handful of Christmas romance books available. I’m leaving out Maisey Yates and her cowboys, and Jessica Lemmon with her Bad Boy for Christmas book. I could go on and on, but I do believe that will cut into my reading time.

Do you have a favorite Christmas romance book? If so, tell me, I’d love to add it to my list.

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Feeding the Muse

As you read this, I am somewhere in England, traipsing over the countryside near Keswick–famous during the 19th century for poets and pencils, known then and now for its breathtaking beauty.

A panoramic view of Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells, as viewed from Latrigg north of the town. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

A panoramic view of Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells. Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Illustrated Magazine of Art, Vol. 3, No. 16 (1854), pp. 252–254

Pencil-making at Keswick, 1854

October, sadly, is the wettest month of the year in northwest England–by several inches–but I am hoping my new hiking boots are up to the task.

My primary purpose for this trip, aside from the very real pleasure of seeing a few college friends, is for research. The book I am hoping to finish this week (oh please, dear Muse!) is set largely in southern Cumbria–which is also on the agenda.

William Westall, Greta Hall and Keswick Bridge, c. 1840

Greta Hall and Keswick Bridge. William Westall, c. 1840. (public domain)

My friend Helen and I will be visiting Blists Hill Victorian Town (a living history sort of museum, or so I understand), Mayfair (because nearly every English historical romance is set there at least part of the time), the Jack the Ripper museum (it promises to be stomach-churningly gruesome so I suppose we’ll have to eat afterwards…), a tour of Parliament with a friend who reportedly does lofty important things there, a few literary landmarks like Jane Austen’s house and Stratford-upon-Avon, and what I fully expect to be a record number of tea shops and pubs en route.

Jane Austen's House, Chawton, Hampshre. By Rudi Riet. CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons

Jane Austen’s House, Chawton, Hampshire. By Rudi Riet.             CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never truly taken a writing research trip before. I have found unexpected inspiration on trips to Italy, Paris, New York, Nebraska, Ohio, and other places, but this is the first time I’m setting out to go where I want to go solely for the purpose of gathering information for my writing (with the advice and consent of my traveling companion, of course, who is strangely willing to indulge me–thank you, Helen!).

I’ll be scribbling in notebooks and taking lots of pictures to share with you all, and I hope the Muses will help fill my head with wonderful stories to tell when I return in about a week–starting with a new book for NaNoWriMo.

Until then, may your Muse be with you, whatever your endeavor, wherever you are.

The Muses Garden, by Lionel Noel Royer (public domain)

The Muses Garden, by Lionel Noel Royer (public domain)

 

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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