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Jessica’s first job after college was as a kindergarten teacher. She still has nightmares about--um, fond memories of-- that time. It did not take her long to figure out that it was not her calling. However, since she was now addicted to working long hours for virtually no pay, Jessica got a job in publishing. This job required that she pretend to be cheerful, efficient and competent. After a while, this started to wear on her. Also, she suspected that people were beginning to see through the act so she decided it was time to move on.

She had gotten married during this time, to her college boyfriend, and when he mentioned that he might like to go to law school in New York, she thought she might just accompany him. Unbelievably, she got another, better job in publishing for a Boston publishing company (www.godine.com), for which she would become the Publicity and Rights Director and open a New York office. The office was in her living room, and the office staff consisted of…her. But the books were great, and it certainly beat working with the demented kindergartners from hell, since she got taken out to lunch a lot.

Jessica at the Romance Writers of America's annual "Readers for Life" booksigning in New York City, summer 2003.

Eventually, her husband graduated from law school and it appeared that he might become gainfully employed, so Jessica decided to pursue her long-standing dream of becoming a crusading journalist. She thought it might be a good idea to actually try writing something first, so she wrote about the publishing industry for the Philadelphia Inquirer and did some freelance magazine pieces. Having proved that she could turn on the computer, she decided to take the crusading journalist dream one step further by going to graduate school to learn how to be just that. One of the first things she learned was that it it seemed likely she was going to have to go out at night in the cold and cover things like car accidents and fires for probably many years before she would get her own editorial column in the New York Times.

This came as sort of a rude awakening, so she decided to have her first baby instead. She had very great plans to write complex, witty, insightful magazine articles with one hand, while entertaining her cherubic newborn with the other. Her stint teaching kindergarten had apparently taught her nothing. After about two weeks of motherhood, when she managed her first shower (well, okay, not really, but it felt that way) and her first two consecutive hours of sleep (yes, really), she was clear-headed enough to realize that her goals might be a trifle ambitious. Particularly as it was becoming apparent that she was not even able to read complex, witty, insightful magazine articles at the moment, because many of them were over two pages long! So for the next six months she nursed a lot, went to many baby music classes, wished there was a Starbucks in her neighborhood, and called her husband about fifty times a day to ask what time he was coming home.

One night they were out by themselves at dinner and her husband mentioned that he was finding her just a tad…irritable. Perhaps, he suggested, right before ducking under the table and taking cover, she needed something else to do with herself? Well, she thought—never one to let reality intrude—I could write a book. I do know sort of a lot about British history. I could write one of those things like Georgette Heyer did… And, unbelievably, she did, although she did not precisely understand that she was writing a Regency Romance. Perhaps equally unbelievably, she found an agent, and the agent sold Lord Stanhope’s Proposal, which won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best First Regency. She had a second baby, and spurred by both those successes—and also by the fact that her agent reminded her that she was contractually obligated to do so—she wrote a second Regency Romance, Much Obliged, which won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award.

Jessica is now writing longer historicals for Pocket, the first of which is The Accidental Duchess. She lives in New York (where she is happy to report there are now numerous Starbucks) with her husband—who is of course very much like a Regency duke would be if he were a commercial litigator—and two extremely noisy young sons.

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When will your next book be out and will it be Myrtia’s (from The Accidental Duchess) story?
When I originally signed my contract with Pocket that was the plan. It had become apparent to me during the writing of Duchess that Myrtia was a woman with more to her past than she was letting on and that I knew precisely the man for her. But somewhere along the line, I decided that I wanted to do something different next, and it’s taking me a little more time. I’m slow. Have I mentioned that I’m slow? So more on that soon.

Does that mean Myrtia’s story is not going to be told? And will Cecy’s problems be resolved?
Of course. No author in their right mind could bear to leave their characters dangling that way. My plan is to come back to them for the following book.

Will you ever write serious, dark, angsty books?
No. Real life can be serious, dark, and angsty enough. There are writers who do this amazingly well, but not me. My books are written to entertain and, with a little luck, provide a laugh or two.

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Sites I can’t seem to stay away from:

www.romantictimes.com
The definitive magazine of all books romantic.

www.theromancereader.com
www.mrsgiggles.com
Fun and informative online romance review sites.

www.amazon.co.uk
A great place to scope out writers from across the pond. Some favorites discovered
there: Victoria Corby, Jilly Cooper, Mary Sheepshanks, and Kate Saunders.

www.simonsayslove.com
Oops. Can’t forget the Simon & Schuster site. A great place to read excerpts.

Those of us who are writers or aspiring writers know that a critique partners is so much more than just, well, a critique partner. Mine is a combination writing coach, therapist, friend, confidante, dispenser of advice, and merciless shrew (what can I say? She suggested a few changes last time, all right?). And somewhere in the midst of all that, she has managed to write a book or two of her own. And, oh, what books they are--fast, funny, sexy, smart, fabulously written, and deeply moving. These aren't necessarily new books, but they are wonderful favorites of mine.

Your Wicked Ways
A Wild Pursuit
by Eloisa James

In Your Wicked Ways, Lady Esmé Rawlings, aka Infamous Esmé, has problems. She has retired to the country to join the village sewing circle, become a pillar of the local church, and await the birth of her late husband Miles's child in the respectable, matronly solitude that befits a young widow expecting a happy event. Her scandalous past is, thankfully, very much in the past.

Or at least it was, until the houseful of guests: First there is her dearest friend Helene, weepy and dispirited over her own dismal marriage. Then there is the formerly stuffy Marquess Bonnington—who might or might not be the father of Esmé's unborn child— who has somehow managed to get himself employed as her gardener, and refuses to accept that fact that she has fired him (numerous times) with the same determination with which he refuses to forget the route to her bedchamber… As if that were not enough, her boisterous aunt has arrived with the young and wild, bosom-stuffing, cosmetic-wearing Lady Beatrix Lennox and the starchy and upright politican, Stephen Fairfax Lacy in tow. Surely a match made in hell?

Although, actually, Mr. Fairfax-Lacy might just come in handy to deflect Bonnington's attentions—if only he and Lady Beatrix would not persist in shooting those unexpected and most unrespectable sparks off of each other—particularly once Bonnington's gorgon of a mother has shown up to make it perfectly clear that she will never accept the Infamous Esmé as her daughter-in-law…

And then, in A Wild Pursuit find out what happens next, when the virtuous and upright Helene, Countess Godwin, who has been on the outs with her husband for ten years, decides that she's had enough with the virtuous and upright bit. That she's done being weepy and dispirited. It's her turn—this time she wants a baby, and she's going to do what it takes to get one.

So what is a formerly virtuous and upright lady like herself to do under such circumstances? Surely the answer is to return to the marital home and convince her scandalous rogue of a husband to do his duty? Even if it means gritting her teeth and taking up housekeeping with him... and his mistress. Let's just say that, unlike her hellion of a husband, Helene has been on her best behavior for the past decade, and when the sparks start flying, well, they really fly.

To visit Eloisa James' site, click here.

The Souvenir Countess
Souvenir Of Love
by Joanna Novins

I was introduced to Joanna Novins by a mutual acquaintance when we both had sites in develpment with Waxcreative at the same time, and since we both had books coming out at the same time, it seemed like we might have a lot in common. And we did. Since that time, Joanna and I have maintained a lively email correspondence covering everything from writing successes and insecurities, husbands, children, schools, cars, websites... you get the picture. And while I won't share those correspondences, I will pull out the adjectives and share the fact that I think her books are fabulous, amazing, fast, sexy reads. And to make things even better, there are two of them.

The first, The Souvenir Countess, is the story of Alix de la Brou, a young woman who has lost everything in the French Revolution, and stands to lose the one thing she has left--her life--if she is not careful; and of Rafe Harcrest, the Earl of Moreham. An English nobleman secure in his firm, if misguided, belief that he knows with certainty what is best for Alix. He is also a man with complications--a past, a woman back at home to whom he is promised, and secrets he is reluctant to share. As they begin their adventure together, attempting to journey through an unstable and dangerous France on their way to England, it is up to Alix to decide whether she can allow him to save her, and in so doing allow herself to save him.

I loved that first book. And those who know me know that I don't often like books where a lot of, well, stuff happens. I always hide my eyes in movies at the really exciting parts, and I generally skip over the action scenes. In fact, I usually like books that are just a whole bunch of talking. But Joanna's books manage to seamlessly blend action, intrigue, and danger (there are parts where I definitely would have covered my eyes if I could, but had to settle for reading ahead and then coming back) with romance and fully rounded characters, who have actual conversations. And her heroines, without ever breaking their nails, are women ahead of their time, of true strength and courage.

Now, onto the second, Souvenir of Love. I loved this one even more. The writing is all at once lovely, gripping, and unafraid. It's the story of Rafe's sister, Lady Elizabeth Harcrest and the sexy, dashingly tortured James Harcrest, future Duke of Dinsmore. After James publicly compromises Elizabeth at a party, and does not offer for her, it seems to both him and the reader he can go no lower. But Elizabeth, despite her relative youth, understands there is more to him than he knows and is determined to help him learn that (and maybe rescue a few prisoners of war along the way). And so off they set on their own adventure of danger, intrigue, and passion.

To visit Joanna Novins' site, click here.

It’s a commonly held belief—ahem—that I would be a much faster, more prolific writer if I spent less time surfing the web looking for things to read. Here are some current favorites. Please note that I have hated doing book reviews as far back as the second grade, so my descriptions are brief.

Lynn Michaels, Return Engagement. A really fun, character-driven romance by an author with a fresh voice. Funny and poignant.

Elizabeth Young, A Girl’s Best Friend. A charming, cozy, British read.

Nora Ephron, Heartburn. The touchstone by which I measure all humorous novels. Still hilarious after all these years.

Peter Robinson, Close to Home and Reginald Hill, Death’s Jest Book.
For my money, the two best contemporary mystery writers going.

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