Erin’s Bookshelf: Castle of the Wolf

It’s another edition of Erin’s Bookshelf, and I’m staying in the world of brooding heroes and sassy heroines. Romance! This week’s recommendation is particularly special, because it is one of my favorite books. I found a copy in a thrift shop years ago, picked it up on a whim, and fell in love with the story right away. It’s a little older, but I think it more than deserves some affection.

I’m talking about Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab!

587901

You can purchase the Ebook on Amazon (admittedly, the paperback version might be a little harder to come upon).

Celia (Cissy) Fussell thought she was doomed to a life of spinsterhood and loneliness following the death of her beloved father. However, she is surprised to learn she was left an inheritance,the Castle of Wolfenbach tucked away deep in the Black Forest. There’s just one catch: In order to claim her castle, she must marry the Wolfenbach son. With the promise of a real future before her, Cissy travels from England to Germany to claim her inheritance and meet her future husband. Unfortunately, her intended is not as keen to meet her. Fenris Wolfenbach is haunted by more than the scars on his body. A former soldier who lost his leg in war, he has retreated from the world into his family’s former castle, and doesn’t appreciate the intrusion of the pretty English woman who claims his home is now hers. As the two clash within the walls of Wolfenbach Castle, they come to realize that all that glitters is not gold, and love can blossom even in shadows.

There are so many things I love about this book. It’s a fairly quick read, but it’s packed with emotion and detail. Cissy is one of my all time favorite heroines. She is naive and sheltered (as most women of somewhat noble birth would have been), but she’s funny, stubborn, smart, and views the world with a sense of wonder. Her love of fairy tales creates the framework within which the story is told.

Fenris is also one of my all time favorite heroes. Yes, he’s your typical brooding leading-man, but there’s a sweetness and vulnerability to him that makes his character endearing. He is terribly self-conscious about his body, and is riddled with guilt about his perceived ruining of his family. Not only is he strong, handsome, and overall swoon-worthy as any good romance hero is, but he’s emotional, and wants Cissy to love him even though he doesn’t think he deserves it.

Apart from the two main characters, this book is also beautifully written. The historical details are sharp without overburdening the story, and the author’s whimsical style of story-telling creates a good balance of drama and lightheartedness. There’s also a nice blend of Gothic themes with fairy-tale tropes (and not Disney fairy-tales…I’m talking old school Grimm brothers). The romance is steamy, but the emphasis is on the emotional development of the two characters rather than their physical attraction to each other (though that’s definitely there as well).

Though I obviously recommend it to everyone, I’d highly suggest this book to anyone who wants to dip their toe in the romance genre pool and see how they like it. Also, to anyone who leans more on the side of sigh-worthy stories over bodice-rippers. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Until next time!

Erin K.

 

Erin’s Bookshelf: Vicious (Sinners of Saint)

I’ve said it before, but one of my absolute favorite genres is romance. Paranormal, historical, contemporary…it it has to do with love, I’m probably going to love it. It’s the genre I read most, and it’s also the genre I’ve started to write in. So, naturally, I have a ton of recommendations for good romance books.

Today’s edition of Erin’s Bookshelf features one of my latest reads, and one of my new favorites. Vicious, book one of the Sinners of Saint series by L.J. Shen, is a contemporary romance available in paperback, Ebook, and Kindle Unlimited.

51bM01e8jAL

Now, the rest of the Sinners of Saint series is great (there’s five total to-date), but Vicious is my favorite. The story follows Emilia LeBlanc, a young artist struggling to support herself and her sick sister in New York City. One night, while hovering over rock bottom, she has a chance encounter with Baron (Vicious) Spencer, her high school crush/nemesis. Ten years earlier, he drove her from the small California town her family had moved to when her parents found jobs working on the Spencer’s estate. Vicious claimed to hate her then, and when they are reunited, nothing appears to have changed.  For Vicious, running in Emilia again presents the opportunity to settle old scores, and finally indulge his obsession with the girl who tormented his every thought when they were younger. He hates her, and she hates him, but he has to have her. The passion between them is undeniable, but their past mistakes and pain blur the line between love and hate until neither are sure where they fall.

There are three big reasons I love this book. The first is that I love a hero who is tall, dark, and a little broken. I’ve never been as big a fan of the straight-laced golden boys who don’t have any internal demons to wrestle. And man, does Vicious have some demons. Seeing how he comes to terms with them and deals with them makes me root for him that much harder, and keeps me from hating him at times (because he can be a real a-hole).

The second reason is that I like a story where the emotional stakes are as high, if not higher, than the physical stakes. There are plenty of stakes and conflicts outside of Vicious and Emilia’s relationship that keep the story engaging, but the emotional roller coaster that takes place between them is what made me finish this book in two days. There’s a realness and rawness to their inner conflicts and baggage that you don’t always see in romance, but when it’s there, it sets that book apart in a gigantic genre.

The third reason is that, in a world where women are compartmentalized as either prudes or sluts, I like a strong, quirky heroine who isn’t shy about her sexuality. Though her good-girl persona might make you think otherwise, Emilia is assertive in the bedroom, and even though Vicious is very much an alpha, she is by no means submissive. She gives as good as she gets, and is not shy about voicing her needs and demands when it comes to sexual situations (and non-sexual ones).

I could go on and on about how much I love this book, but I don’t want to give anything away. If you love romance, and want something that will keep you on the edge of your seat with a bad-ass hero and a strong-willed heroine, then go check it out for yourself, as well as the rest of the Sinners of Saint series (if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read them all for free!).

Until next time!
Erin K.

 

10 Challenges Aspiring Authors Face

Being a writer is hard. Getting your writing published is even harder. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re all alone out there. That no one else knows the struggles you face pursuing your publication dreams

If you’re thinking of becoming a writer, or dream of publication, it’s better to know the challenges you’ll face from the start. Remember, though, that you’re not alone! There’s an entire community of people out there suffering just like you 🙂

10 Challenges Aspiring Authors Face:

1. Having a million ideas shooting through your head, and you can’t follow through on any of them.

http3a2f2fmashable-com2fwp-content2fuploads2f20132f052f100percent

2. Having NO ideas shooting through your head, and you’re grasping at straws.

giphy

3. Imagining a scene in your story perfectly in your brain, but totally blanking when you go to put it into words.

tumblr_mrsexc17bm1soox5to1_500

4. Writer’s Block – When your brain simply says “nope”.

writing-bad

5. Explaining to your friends and family that your writing isn’t just a “hobby”.

when-you-are-tired-of-explaining-something-over-and-over_666

6. Editing – The act of taking the manuscript you poured your heart and soul into, and ripping it apart.

980x

7. Procrastination – The internet is not your friend, and wants you to fail.

4gca

8. Writing a query letter – “Please love me!”

ordinarydigitalcatbird-size_restricted

9. Swimming in rejection, more rejection, and oh, look! More rejection.

source

10. Starting work on your next novel while the rejection letters roll in on your first one, because you refuse to give up on your dream.

 

Part of the challenge to publishing is being able to overcome all the challenges to publishing. It’s those people that stick it out, are dedicated to the process, and thicken their skins that ultimately make it. It could take two months, or it could take twenty years, but if your ultimate dream is to see your very own book on a bookstore display, then you have to stay in the game. Remember, you’re not alone! We’re all struggling together.

Until next time,

Erin K.

Erin’s Bookshelf: We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals

I’ve said before that two of my favorite genres are history and romance, but I love when the two are blended together. Most often, this takes the form of historical romances, but every now and then I’ll stumble upon a book that focuses on a romance of history. These can prove the most satisfying, because they were real.

In this edition of Erin’s Bookshelf, we’re highlighting my love of history once again, with a romantic twist, with We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill.

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals by [Gill, Gillian]

Here’s the book’s description from Amazon (Warning: It’s a long one):

“It was the most influential marriage of the nineteenth century–and one of history’ s most enduring love stories. Traditional biographies tell us that Queen Victoria inherited the throne as a naïve teenager, when the British Empire was at the height of its power, and seemed doomed to find failure as a monarch and misery as a woman until she married her German cousin Albert and accepted him as her lord and master. Now renowned chronicler Gillian Gill turns this familiar story on its head, revealing a strong, feisty queen and a brilliant, fragile prince working together to build a family based on support, trust, and fidelity, qualities neither had seen much of as children. The love affair that emerges is far more captivating, complex, and relevant than that depicted in any previous account.

The epic relationship began poorly. The cousins first met as teenagers for a few brief, awkward, chaperoned weeks in 1836. At seventeen, charming rather than beautiful, Victoria already “showed signs of wanting her own way.” Albert, the boy who had been groomed for her since birth, was chubby, self-absorbed, and showed no interest in girls, let alone this princess. So when they met again in 1839 as queen and presumed prince-consort-to-be, neither had particularly high hopes. But the queen was delighted to discover a grown man, refined, accomplished, and whiskered. “Albert is beautiful!” Victoria wrote, and she proposed just three days later.

As Gill reveals, Victoria and Albert entered their marriage longing for intimate companionship, yet each was determined to be the ruler. This dynamic would continue through the years–each spouse, headstrong and impassioned, eager to lead the marriage on his or her own terms. For two decades, Victoria and Albert engaged in a very public contest for dominance. Against all odds, the marriage succeeded, but it was always a work in progress. And in the end, it was Albert’s early death that set the Queen free to create the myth of her marriage as a peaceful idyll and her husband as Galahad, pure and perfect.

As Gill shows, the marriage of Victoria and Albert was great not because it was perfect but because it was passionate and complicated. Wonderfully nuanced, surprising, often acerbic–and informed by revealing excerpts from the pair’s journals and letters–We Two is a revolutionary portrait of a queen and her prince, a fascinating modern perspective on a couple who have become a legend.”

Anyone familiar with Queen Victoria will know the legacy of her marriage to Prince Albert. They loved each other so deeply, that when Albert died, Victoria wore mourning black for the rest of her life. Together they had nine children who would spread across Europe, connecting nearly every royal family in the continent back to Victoria and Great Britain. Prince Albert brought the greatest minds of the world to England for his Great Exhibition, and Victoria ruled an empire during the height of Britain’s power, the longest reigning monarch until Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her. Their story together is one of prestige and dynasty, played out on a global stage.

Yet Gill brings something new to the story. She humanizes the legend, breaks apart the mythology of Victoria and Albert to see the truth behind it. She doesn’t focus so much on how the powerful couple ruled together. Instead, she highlights two individuals, and how they maneuvered through the complicated dynamics of royal power and marriage, all while maintaining a passionate love that was as real and gritty as any regular couple’s.

Gill divides the book into two sections: The Years Apart and Together. In The Years Apart, she tells their independent stories, showing us how each was shaped by the people around them and the responsibilities and expectations thrust upon them. Their intended marriage hangs in the background of their lives, but initially as a political move by their families rather than a love match.

In Together, Gill tells the story of two people navigating the unique circumstance of their marriage. We are shown the struggles that each individual faces while trying to love their spouse. Albert has difficulty finding his place in Britain, as well as defining his role in his new home and marriage. He is a husband, and should be head of his family, but he is married to the most powerful woman in the country, and is by law subservient to her. Victoria desperately loves her husband and wants to make him happy, but is forced to walk the fine line between wife and constitutional monarch, working to please both her country and her husband. Victoria is dramatic, and Albert has a cold temper. He can sometimes be manipulative, and she stubborn and childish. Yet, they still love each other and fight as hard for their relationship as they do for their individual rights and powers.

This book is beautifully written, using the bare-bone facts of history to dig out the emotions at play in this complicated marriage. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves history or romance. It will leave you with a new understanding of the motives of the black-clad widow Queen Victoria, and the love of her life, Albert.

Until next time,

Erin K.

Erin’s Bookshelf: Princesses Behaving Badly

I’m a pretty avid reader, but like everyone, I gravitate towards certain genres more than others. My usual go-tos are YA, romance, fantasy…and history. I’m pretty specific when it comes to my history. English history is probably my favorite (I’m obsessed with the Tudors), but I also love biographies. Especially, royal biographies.

Which brings us to today’s featured book on Erin’s Bookshelf:

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings, by Linda Rodriquez McRobbie

Here’s the book’s description from Amazon:

“You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, and you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But real princesses didn’t always get happy endings. Sure, plenty were graceful and benevolent leaders, but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their majestic closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elisabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev slaughtered her way to sainthood. And Princess Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield with her toddler strapped to her back.”

I came across this book by chance when I was wandering through Barnes and Noble one day. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, and found myself searching the biography shelves in the history section of the store. This book caught my attention almost right away (a testament to why a good cover is necessary for any book hoping to sell), and after reading the description on the inside flap, I decided to give it a chance.

I adore this book.

It is one of the most engaging biographies I have ever read. It tells the stories of over thirty princesses, from “Warriors” and “Schemers” to “Partiers” and “Madwomen”. The stories themselves aren’t long, which makes this a great book for anyone who tends to shy away from biographies because of their length and sometimes painful detail.

However, it’s really the writing skills of McRobbie that bring the stories to life. They’re engaging, read almost like fairy-tales, and in some instances, are just downright hilarious. McRobbie doesn’t fall into the trap some biographers do of sacrificing entertainment for the bare bone facts; she strikes a near perfect balance, engaging with your emotions as well as your intellect.

I have never finished a biography as fast as I finished this one (granted, it’s not a long book). It’s truly a page-turner, and I couldn’t put it down. If I gave out stars or thumbs ups on this blog, this book would get all of them.

Obviously, I recommend this book. It’s fun, interesting, and as Bust Magazine said, “An important and impressive contribution to the feminist narrative”.

If you like Disney, but wish the princesses weren’t always such goody-goodies, then you are going to love Princesses Behaving Badly. Go get your copy today!

Until next time,

Erin K.