Happy Reading

I know there have been a couple summer reads posts on the blog already this month, and this is another one, but hear me out. A Facebook friend posted a “must read” list the other day, and every one of the books was intense–about mental illness, or cancer, or the Holocaust, betrayal, murder, suicide. I asked if anyone read happy books any more, and the answer was no. Really?

I will say that I don’t always read happy books, and I definitely don’t watch happy TV–I’m binge watching Bitten and Penny Dreadful at the moment–whoa. The books I write, although they have happy endings–a requirement in romance, of course–tend to be on the dark side. But every once in awhile, I need something light-hearted–the literary equivalent of an ice cream cone. And when I want to read happy, I’ll usually pick up a romance.

But the Facebook exchange got me thinking. I can’t remember the last time I read a happy book that wasn’t a romance, although cozy mysteries come very close–my faves are the Aunt Dimity books by Nancy Atherton, and the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. Browsing through Goodreads, it’s hard to find one–every description seems to contain the words “poignant,” “deeply affecting,” “deeply moving,” “haunting,” yadda yadda, which are usually code for “will make you bawl until snot comes out of your eyes.” I’m sure they’re great books, but they’re not for me.

So my challenge for you, friends, is to help me come up with a list of feel good books for the summer. Happy, but not happy-ever-after. I found a few that look promising, and they’re on my TBR list for an upcoming road trip to Massachusetts and Maine:

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The title alone is enough. I actually read and finished this book after I drafted this post. Read it. You must, must read it.

 

 

The Whistling Season. Aptly demonstrating the power of a good blurb.

 

 

 

My Lady Jane. I’m not entirely sure how happy this will be–Lady Jane Grey didn’t exactly have a happy ending–but I am intrigued nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

What books do you recommend, or have on your TBR list?

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Celebrating the Victorian Father

Happy Father’s Day, everyone! I know it can be bittersweet for many of us, but I wish for you a relaxing day to celebrate the men who hold a prominent place in our lives, whether they are fathers or not.

Father’s Day is a post-Victorian creation–although the first Father’s Day in the US was celebrated in West Virginia in 1908, it was not recognized nationally until 1972. Father’s Day took far longer than Mother’s Day to be recognized, because “As one historian writes, [men] ‘scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.’” (History.com.)

I tend to think Victorian fathers were a bit conflicted. On the one hand, they had been taught, and treated, that as a husband and father, their word was law.  Their wives were told, by their own mothers and in a myriad of household guides, that the father “was to be first in all things” and that children should not “interfere unduly with the comfort of the heads of the establishment.” (Flanders, Inside the Victorian Home (Norton, 2003), 73.)  But many men took an active role in the lives of their children, and gradually over the 64 years of Victoria’s reign, this became more prevalent.

Charles Dickens and his children, 1864

Charles Dickens, for example, fathered ten children by the age of 40 and took an active role in raising them, quite devoted to them (at least until they got older). When his youngest, Edward, was born in 1852, he wrote, “we have in this house the only baby worth mentioning; and there cannot possibly be another baby anywhere, to come into competition with him. I happen to know this, and would like it to be generally understood.” That does seem to be the pinnacle of his adoration of his children, unfortunately, although he did continue to take an active interest in their welfare. In 1857, he fell in love with an 18 year old actress and eventually left his wife–she who had been either pregnant or nursing for nearly twenty years–and took the children away from her, declaring in The New York Tribune that she “suffered from a mental disorder.” (Flanders, 250). I suspect she was just really tired of putting up with Charles. . .

Victoria, Albert, and their brood in 1857

One of the most famous fathers of the Victorian era was, of course, Prince Albert, who had nine children by Queen Victoria. Although one suspects he had little contact with them except to pose for pictures like the one above, he nevertheless took an active role in their health, education, and discipline.  (Wikipedia.)

Literary fathers of the time period reflected the changing times as well. Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855) is chock full of conflicted fathers. Mr. Hale, the father of the book’s heroine, Margaret, has given up his living in the Church of England over his religious convictions, dragging his wife and daughter from their bucolic home in the south to live in the relatively harsh environment of industrial Manchester. Although he is a kind man and devoted to them both, he barely considers their own well-being, and certainly not their wishes, when making his decision to leave behind the only life they had ever known.

Bessy Higgins (Anna Maxwell Martin) from North and South

Nicholas Higgins, the single father of Bessy, Margaret’s only friend in Manchester, is a laborer who has toiled with both his daughters in the cotton mills. Fibers filled the air in poorly ventilated factories, taking a fatal toll on Bessy’s lungs. Nicholas’ motivations in calling for formation of a union and ultimately a strike are largely a result of seeing the devastating effect of poor conditions on his darling Bess, although he’s also a hot head and a bit too fond of drink. The same strike that Higgins hopes will improve conditions and wages for all workers, however, is the downfall of another worker, Boucher. He breaks the strike, ultimately caring more for the immediate need to feed his eight children then any potential reward the strike might bring. When he takes his own life, followed immediately in death by his sickly wife, Higgins takes in his children.

We’ve come a long way from those days, but I think some of the issues fathers experienced 100 years ago still exist, to some degree, today.

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Location, Location…

If you’ve read my books, you’ll know I like to set them in locations slightly off the beaten path–very few Mayfair ballrooms for me! Stirring Up the Viscount takes place largely in County Durham, England, where I spent a year in college. Secret Promise characters can be found in Boston, where my mother lives, an island in Lake Erie an hour or two from my house, and Wallsend and Tynemouth in Northumberland, inspired by this photo of Tynemouth Priory:

Tynemouth Priory. Photo by Chris McKenna (Thryduulf) via Wikimedia Commons

My third book, which I’ve just finished–finally–takes place in Maine, inspired in part by this gorgeous painting by Frederic Edwin Church in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Twilight in the Wilderness (1860), by Frederic Edwin Church. Cleveland Museum of Art.

Dalemain House, Penrith, Cumbria. (Source: VisitCumbria.com.)

 

My next book is unrelated to my first three, and takes place in a location inspired by own family tree. My paternal grandmother’s ancestors hailed–some five centuries ago–from Kendal, England. Formerly in the County of Westmoreland and now part of Cumbria, Kendal lies just south of the more famous Lake District. The heroine in the book is an heiress from Kendal, and might live in a Georgian home like this one.

 

Levens Hall, Kendal, Cumbria. (Source: BritainExpress.com)

Or possibly  a 12th century house like this one, which was owned by the Bellingham family from 1562 to 1688. If my family history is accurate–no guarantees there–there are Bellinghams in my family tree.  I’m hoping to head over that way this summer (assuming I don’t sell my house, which looks less likely with each passing day) to tromp through graveyards in search of ancestors, and soak up atmosphere for the next book.

What inspires you in your writing or your reading? Any ideas where I should set the next book? I’m always on the lookout for the next great location!

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

The Romance of Autumn

It’s Autumn again here in Northeast Ohio. I adore Autumn. I love the crispness of the air, the smell of burning leaves (it’s illegal to burn leaves here, so I always wonder where that smell comes from…), fresh apple cider, pumpkin pie, hot soups and stews, warm, cozy sweaters. I love the crunch of newly fallen leaves underfoot, the rich color of the trees, and the dark, dark blue of the sky on a stormy day. It’s the season of my birthday, Halloween, the Annual NEORWA retreat, and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.

 

I tend not to focus on the fact that fall means winter is coming. Winters are pretty harsh here–last year was really a doozy–but living in Cleveland teaches one to live in the moment, at least as far as the weather is concerned. So I enjoy the awesomeness that is Autumn, and worry about winter later.

Pumpkins 2012

 

This year I have more reasons than usual to look forward to Autumn. In addition to my 50th birthday, this October brings the release of my second book, Secret Promise.  I started to write it in during NaNoWriMo in November 2013, finished it in November 2014, and it takes place largely in the fall, so I had many of the things I love about the season in mind as I wrote.

 

Here’s the blurb and an excerpt:

Secret Promise (October 30, 2015)

SecretPromise_w9701_750Falsely imprisoned as a blockade-runner during the American Civil War, Edward Mason yearns to go home. But when after seven years he finally returns to England, the life he expected is gone. His parents are dead, his home destroyed, his father’s legacy stolen, and his girl—his girl is now the single mother of a child Edward never knew.

Abandoned by the man she loved and disowned by her family, Anna Templeton has learned to stand on her own two feet and make a home for her son. Now the successful owner of The Silver Gull tavern, she’s not about to put their happiness in the hands of the one man who let her down so badly.

Edward is determined to regain Anna’s love and be a father to his son. But when a series of suspicious accidents threaten him and those he loves, he must stop the man responsible, or lose everything.

Available in ebook and trade paperback from The Wild Rose Press and Amazon. Also available for Nook and Kobo.

Excerpt:

She meandered back to the bar through the now empty room, scooting chairs under tables, watching Edward, who now sat slumped over his untouched drink. Lightly squeezing his shoulder, she leaned against the bar at his side.

“What’s the matter? Other than the obvious, of course.”

Edward snorted with little humor and did not look at her. “The obvious. Shouldn’t that be enough to make me cry into my bitter?”

“A different man, maybe. Not you.” She thought for a minute as she gazed at him. He was older, certainly; they both were. He was harder, more…careworn, she supposed, although the scar added an air of devilishness she had to admit was really quite appealing.

She reached out and traced the mark with her index finger before she could stop herself, feeling the warm flush of his skin. Edward barely stirred, just eyed her from beneath his impossibly long, dark lashes.

“But you’re not the same man you were when you left, are you?”

“No. And you aren’t the same woman, I imagine.” He grabbed her hand to keep it still. She could feel the beat of his heart racing through her fingertips. Hers was not far behind.

She pulled her hand away before she rushed headlong into something she wasn’t sure she was ready to do, and changed the subject. “You never did tell me how you got that scar.”

Edward rose from his stool, tossed a coin onto the bar. “No, I didn’t.” In a single movement, he pulled her to him, pressing his lips to hers. She closed her eyes, tasting. He was the same as he had been on the cliff top, or at least the way she remembered him. Salty, sweet, the slightest bit sour from his last drink, all mixed together with something that was uniquely Edward. She wanted to crawl inside him, become part of him again, just as she had seven years before.

She moaned, grasping him tighter, even as he pulled away. Her eyelids fluttered as her brain tried to understand the absence of him. He rubbed a finger along her bottom lip, his gaze burning through hers.

“Not yet, Anna. You aren’t ready to take me back. But you will.” He kissed her again, hard, then was gone. Her legs were jelly as she slumped against the bar.

“No, not yet,” she breathed into the empty room. “But bloody close.”

 

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Guest Post — AE Jones is back!

We are delighted to welcome paranormal romance author AE Jones back to Through Heart Shaped Glasses. AE’s long awaited fifth installment to the Mind Sweeper series comes out next week! Today she talks about one of her inspirations.

How This TV Addict Became a Writer

I am often asked what influences my writing. A great question even if my answer might be a bit of a surprise. I do have a degree in English and I love all kinds of literature, but in all honesty, television is one of the major influences of my becoming a writer. Growing up, I was a TV junkie. You name it and I watched it. And when I didn’t like the way a show was written, I imagined a different ending. Actually wrote it out, so to speak, in my head. And that was the beginning of my ‘writing’. It wasn’t until years later that I started to create my own stories. Even now when I write my scenes, I see them in my head acted out like a TV show.

Where did my love of paranormal and urban fantasy and my decision to write in these genres stem from? That started with sci-fi shows which then morphed over the years into vamps and demons when director/producer Joss Whedon set the stage. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. Shows that were funny one second and dripping with emotion the next. And the humor was smart-funny and so ridiculously sarcastic that it made you laugh out loud.

Where did my love of humor, sarcasm, and angst and applying it to my stories start? See paragraph above re: Joss Whedon.

But one of the biggest influences of television on my writing is that I write series books. TV shows allow you to spend time with the characters who have become your friends and get to know them along the way. It’s not a snapshot in time. A perfect 90 minute rom-com where the hero runs through the airport to find the heroine after realizing (finally) that they are meant to be together. Well, this could happen in one of my stories, but I would have to add fangs and fur and, more importantly, these characters would be seen again in other books in my series. Just as I sat transfixed watching a show and wondering what would happen the next episode or next season (daggone cliffhangers), I write my books in a way that allows me to explore the character not only in one book, but over multiple books.

In my Mind Sweeper series I follow the life of Kyle McKinley, a woman who has the ability to manipulate memories. And that’s a great power to have when you work with supernatural to hide who and what they are from humans. For me, series books allow for the exploration of all kinds of relationships. Not just between the hero and heroine, but between the secondary characters as well. And not all of the interactions are successful or happy. They can often be painful. But the point is to allow the characters to grow, whether over one book or several.

On September 21st, Sentinel Lost, the fifth book in my Mind Sweeper Series, will be released. And in it, Kyle continues to grow and change as do the characters around her. And because I’m writing a series, I am able to delve into my other character lives as well. They want their stories told. And I will oblige them. Ultimately what makes a good book or a good TV show is characters facing conflict. They might not come out unscathed, but readers (or the audience) aren’t looking for perfection. They’re wanting to see these characters, who have become their friends, rise above it in the end.

So television has played a large role in my life as a writer, and I’m proud to admit it!

Sentinel Lost
(Book 5 in the Award Winning Mind Sweeper Series)

How many supernaturals does it take to screw in a lightbulb? For this particular case, way more than Kyle McKinley has backing her up.

When she stumbles upon a dark museum, missing artwork, and a dead security guard, Kyle and her team are thrust into a new mystery. One involving demons. But not your run of the mill demons—realm demons. Tougher, scarier, and banned from earth, they are escaping from the realm and wreaking havoc in Cleveland, Ohio, of all places.

Now the Feds have shown up, and Kyle has to deal with the one person she prayed she would never see again. Dalton. How can she keep the truth of their past from him without jeopardizing the case? Especially when the Key of Knowledge is part of the mystery. The same Key that almost cost Dalton his sanity and is now threatening hers. Kyle is just starting to get her life back together again with Griffin at her side. And now the Fates are forcing her to choose. But when a demon apocalypse looms on the horizon, her only choice is to embrace the Key to save the world, regardless of what it might cost her.

********************

AE JonesGrowing up a TV junkie, AE Jones oftentimes rewrote endings of episodes in her head when she didn’t like the outcome. She immersed herself in sci-fi and soap operas. But when Buffy hit the little screen, she knew her true love was paranormal. Now she spends her nights weaving stories about all variation of supernatural—their angst and their humor. After all, life is about both…whether you sport fangs or not.

AE won RWA’s 2013 Golden Heart ® Award for her paranormal manuscript, Mind Sweeper. Mind Sweeper was also a 2015 RWA RITA® finalist for both First Book and Paranormal Romance.

AE lives in Ohio surrounded by her eclectic family and friends who in no way resemble any characters in her books. Honest. Now her two cats are another story altogether.

Find AE at:
Website: www.aejonesauthor.com
Twitter: @aejonesauthor
Facebook: www.facebook.com/aejones.author1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8190719.A_E_Jones

Find AE’s books here:
Amazon
Kobo
Apple

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Novel Settings

Today I thought I’d run with the ball that Nina threw out in her last post and talk about setting. Setting can be many things to a story–a backdrop, something that defines a character, or it can become a character itself. Think, for example, of Harry Potter–Hogwarts is absolutely essential to the story. Setting can also be dangerous–raise your hand if you’ve ever read a book in which the writer spends pages and pages describing the setting. I usually skip those scenes, as they bore me to tears. I tend to think of settings as a backdrop. They are integral to my stories in that I find it hard to imagine the characters anywhere else, but they don’t usually become characters themselves.

Durham Cathedral fall 1985

Durham Cathedral

How writers decide where to set a book is a curious thing as well. I almost always think of a setting first–inspired by something I’ve done, seen, or read–and then the story follows. Equally curious is the fact that some places–beautiful, wondrous places–spark no inspiration at all. I spent some time in Nebraska last year, and in Paris this year, and neither of them, interesting and unique (and different) as they are, gave me any ideas for a story. Not yet, anyway.

My first book, Stirring Up the Viscount, is set in Durham, England. I lived there for a year in college a very long time ago and vividly remember it, and when I sat down to write that book, Durham is where I pictured it.

Tynemouth Priory. Attribution: Chris McKenna (Thryduulf)

 

 

My second book, Secret Promise, is set in Northumberland, in a town I’ve never visited, but when I found a picture of Tynemouth online, I knew the book had to be set there.

Mansion of Sylvester T. Everett on Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 1885. Attribution: Cornell University Library.

 

 

I am working on two books at the moment. One is the third book in the series which started with Stirring Up the Viscount. It’s set in northern Maine–a rather drastic change from Durham, and a place I’ve never been. A fourth book, completely unrelated to anything, takes place in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1880s, inspired by a talk I heard last year about Cleveland’s Gilded Age. I’ve got ideas in the hopper for books set in Pompeii and London.

If you’re a writer, how do you decide on your settings? If you’re a reader, what is your favorite setting for novels? Where would you love to see a story set? You never know–it might give me an idea. 🙂

 

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

  • OUR LATEST BUZZ!

    The first two books in the Cupid's Cafe series release in June by Lori Sizemore and Landra Graf *** Lori Sizemore's Infamous released on December 14. *** Julie Jarnagin's Cowgirl in the Kitchen is available now. *** Bethanne Strasser LETTERS FROM HOME from Entangled Publishing is available now! *** Nina Croft's latest books, Her Fantasy Husband, a hot contemporary romance from Entangled's Brazen line, and The Order Boxed Set, a compilation of the three full length novels, plus a new novella, exclusive to the boxed set, both released in April 2016 *** Debora Dennis's holiday novella, CUPCAKES & CUPID is available.