SWHM Guest: Louisa Bacio

Women’s History Month! Yeah! Today we have Louisa Bacio visiting and sharing a post with us. As always I tell guests to write about whatever they like, and I find the variety and breadth of topics so fascinating. Louisa is a first time guest to ALBTALBS, so we can meet her together! ;)

Cracking the Books
Louisa Bacio

The Big OneWhy go to college if you’re only going to get married and have kids?”

I’m the first woman in my family to graduate from college (tsk-tsk). I didn’t get married until I was 29 (old maid!). I did, however, live with someone for five years previously (for shame!). That didn’t work out (told you so).

Do you ever do things that maybe go against the family tradition? I can still hear my great-grandmother asking me the question above. After graduating high school, my parents move from Riverside, Calif., to Laguna Beach, and I went to junior college, a four-year university, and then decided to get not one, but two master’s degrees.

My father’s side of the family is Italian. My great-grandmother married at 15 to a man 10 years older, and started to have children right away. My grandmother never drove, or worked after she got hitched. Finally, by the time my aunt became a teen, she broke ground and got her driver’s license! Once her daughters were of a certain age, she also started working.

For me, though, it was all new territory. I’ve been fortunate to always know what I wanted to do – write. At an early age, I scribbled poetry, and got into yearbook and journalism in junior high and high school. My school studies followed the same path of journalism and English.

A Duel with DeathNow, in addition to writing, I’m a college professor. Along with the traditional on-campus work, I teach at the University of Phoenix online. About 90% or more of the students are female, and many are working, single mothers. Teaching has become my way of giving back. They’re able to get a good education, and a helping hand in the workforce, taking classes online.

It’s not an easy balance, and I understand.

Many of them are the first in their family to go for a degree, and they want to be good role models for their children. So often, I hear, “I want them to see how hard I worked,” and “make a better life for them.”

Why go to college if you’re only going to get married and have kids?”

Even if that’s “all” a woman ends up doing, and by no means am I putting down the responsibility of being a mother, think how much better of one you could be. I’m able to infuse my love of education into my two beautiful and smart daughters. They see what a woman can do – anything!

About Louisa Bacio: A Southern California native, Louisa Bacio can’t imagine living far away from the ocean. The multi-published author of erotic romance enjoys writing within all realms – from short stories to full-length novels.
Bacio shares her household with a supportive husband, two daughters growing “too fast,” and a multitude pet craziness: Two dogs, five fish tanks, an aviary, hamsters, rabbits and hermit crabs. In her other life, she teaches college classes in English, journalism and popular culture. Website. Facebook. Twitter.

So – what about you? Is this sentiment prevalent in your family? Did you bother with an advanced degree? I know the “trend” now is various skilled trades, which actually makes a lot (more?) sense to me … but then I’m just bitter about school and stuff. ;) So spill! What was your experience like?

SWHM Feature: Kim Lowe

Hi friends! Yes it is another Smithsonian Heritage Month! Or, whatever. I’d link you, but the Smithsonian website is down O_o. So, if you’re interested, the Women’s History Month government page is up. You might be all “but Lime – if this has been a thing, why didn’t you celebrate it last year?” Well, two answers. I had this sneaking suspicion even in 2013 that 2014 might kick my ass. Also, because I had no idea how the Heritage Months would go and figured “well, focusing on romance is kickass enough and sufficient for ALBTALBS.” But for 2015, we’re kicking it up a notch! So without further ado … here’s Kim with her contribution!

Jacqueline Cochran standing in uniform Wikimedia CommonsMy oldest son recently wrote an essay for a scholarship offered to military dependents. The topic was unusual – discuss a woman who contribute to WWII. He wrote about Jacqueline Cochran, a trailblazing woman in military aviation. She developed an interest in flying in the early 1930s, ultimately setting speed records along with Amelia Earhart. With the arrival of WWII, she volunteered to ferry planes to Britain and advocated for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) once the US entered the war. After the war, she broke more records. From the National Aviation Hall of Fame:

  • In 1935, she became the first woman to fly in the Bendix Trophy Race, which she won in 1938.
  • In 1937, she Became the first woman to make a blind instrument landing.
  • During World War II she was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean (leading to the WASPs).
  • In 1950, she Received the Harmon Trophy as the Aviatrix of the Decade.
  • In 1953, she became the first woman to exceed the speed of sound.
  • In 1962, she set 73 records in three years.
  • In 1964, She exceeded Mach 2 in 1964.

Cochran left a legacy of “can do” spirit, opening the doors for future generations of women in the military.

I joined the Air Force during President Reagan’s military expansion to outspend the Soviet Union. Yet women were still not welcome in all careers (and not always welcomed at all). Shortly after I transitioned from active duty to military spouse, I met a group of women who understood the challenges I faced on active duty. These women belong to the RomVets – veterans who write romance. They welcomed me into their ranks. Leading this band of sisters is Merline Lovelace, a military brat, Vietnam veteran, and retired Air Force Colonel. She commanded the 3200 Support Wing at Eglin AFB – the equivalent of winning the RITA award in Romanceland. After serving her country, she served up romance novels. Merline recently signed a three book deal which will bring her total published books to over 100. She’s a writing “ace” who has also won the RITA award. Merline never tires of encouraging writers and supporting veterans. I thank Merline for setting the bar high for other women to achieve their own success.

I am giving away military swag plus a copy of Merline’s Course of Action with Lindsay McKenna (another RomVet) to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Kim Lowe is an Air Force veteran, Air Force spouse, and romance book blogger at SOS Aloha. Contact Kim at sos.aloha@yahoo.com.

So! Women’s History Month … military edition! :D Any other veterans out there? Do you have a favorite female veteran? Any inspiring figures for Women’s History Month? Let’s hear it! :)

Guest Review: Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Ana’s Review of Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip
Historical fiction released by Kensington on November 25, 2014

Secret of a Thousand BeautiesSet against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip’s enthralling novel explores one woman’s defiant pursuit of independence.

Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother’s belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws’ protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a “bad-luck woman,” Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor’s love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting–a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete–betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman’s story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip is the story of Spring Swallow a young Chinese woman who comes of age in the tumultuous 1930’s in and around Peking. Chinese culture is in flux, Western missionaries are ever more present, revolutionaries are stirring in the mountains and universities but old cultural traditions and social norms are not yet forgotten. I requested this historical novel (it is not a historical romance) because I was intrigued by the setting, and time period. Last year when I struggled to find historical romances to enjoy, I found the most success the farther I moved from England and the Regency. Jeannie Lin’s The Lotus Palace and Jenn Bennett’s Bitter Spirits were two of my favorite books last year.

Spring Swallow had the great misfortune of losing her parents while just a child. She is left to be indifferently raised by an aunt, who considers her a burden and a source of bad luck. Mean Aunt as Spring Swallow refers to her throughout the novel forces Spring Swallow to agree to marry a ghost at the age of 17. Her ghost groom was her mother’s best-friend’s stillborn son. The arrangement would essentially transfer Spring Swallow to her ghost husband’s family, where Spring Swallow would then owe them a lifetime of celibate servitude. Although she endures the ceremony, she refuses to accept a farcical pseudo-marriage as her lot in life, and flees her village. Hungry and homeless she is befriended by young secretive woman, named Purple who brings her into the home of her teacher Aunt Peony. Aunt Peony is a master embroider. Aunt Peony who runs an embroidery workshop from her solitary country home. Aunt Peony’s household is filled with other ill-fated young women. While Aunt Peony’s manner is harsh, and she is secretive about her history, she nevertheless teaches these young women skills and provides them a home where they can live without prostituting their bodies. For a short-time Spring Swallow find a home, among these women, before greed, secrets & men tear them apart.

The novel is best described as melodrama. The novel covers a roughly 3 years span in the life of these young women. We learn of their tarnished pasts, small diversions, faithless lovers, dashed dreams and tragic choices as they come and go from Spring Swallow’s life. We follow Spring Swallow from her days as a timid runaway bride to a ghost, to her romance with revolutionary and her eventual contentment in an unconventional marriage with a unlikely groom.

While the novel is a treasure trove of information about the everyday life of villagers and poor city dwellers in 1930’s China and provided a rich history lesson about the often forgotten artisans who created China’s gorgeous embroidery, the story relied to often on coincidence & chance. Too often Spring Swallow learns life changing news by running into just the right person or reading just the right newspaper. I grew dismayed that not one Chinese character in the novel treated Spring Swallow with disinterested kindness or compassion. Everyone including her beloved revolutionary husband Shang Feng, always wanted something from her or betrayed and abandoned her. The only beacons of generosity and love in the novel are a pair of Catholic missionaries, Father Edwin and Ryan McFarland, who take Spring Swallow in when she most needs them. Spring Swallow is heroic in that she survives a life that killed so many of her contemporaries, and that she is able to make opportunist choices of survival without harming others. In the end when her sacrifice, loyalty and tenacity are rewarded with safety, security and recognition, her story feels like a uncomfortable & self-congratulatory fable about compromise.

Grade: C-

I received a review copy of Yip’s Secret of a Thousand Beauties from Kensington Books via NetGalley.

You can buy a copy here.

What I’ve Been Reading: January Edition

Hello hello helloooooooo lady! Ladies. I’m clawing my way out of a ~seven year reading slump, and I figured I’d do something new. At the end of each month I’m going to list what I’ve read in the prior month. (This will *knocks on wood* give me enough time to update Goodreads, which is something I’m determined to do this year. Cuz I swear I’m fucking re-reading books without knowing it >.<)

In no real particular order… these are the books I read in January 2015. (This isn’t an exhaustive list … because certain books it was so complicated even a simple listing would be too much trouble.) I’ve been on a total Entangled Brazen kick. Somebody stop me. I’m just going to list the title, author, and grade. If I said anything more, it’d be in GoodReads.

I also need to [re]write out the ALBTALBS grading scale… but for now, this works.

A = AMAZING. You loved it. You want everyone to read it. Even you dog. If s/he could read. Hell, you’ll read it to your dog.
B = a really good book. You enjoyed it, and recommend it. You’ll also definitely be reading more books by the author
C = a good book and enjoyable read, but an average book. You liked it, but it’s nothing to write home about. Nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t to the next level
D = there were definite issues with the book
F = you flat out hated the book and kinda wish it hadn’t been written. you’re a little pissed that you wasted your time reading it

MacNamara’s Lady by N.J. Walters Grade: C+

Courting Trouble by Kimberly Dean Grade: B+

All Fired Up by Madelynne Ellis Grade: D+

Sweet in Love by Nadia Lee Grade: D+

Willing Victim by Cara McKenna Grade: B+

The Billionaire Biker by Jackie Ashenden Grade: D+

Playing Dirty by Kelly Jamieson Grade: B+

Can’t Buy Me Love by Rin Daniels Grade: C

Don’t Let Me Go by Rin Daniels Grade: D+

Three Little Words by Maggie Wells Grade: B

Friends With Benefits by Rhonda Lee Carver Grade: D

Power Play by Charlotte Stein Grade: C-

The Last First Date by Maggie Wells Grade: C-

Slow Surrender by Cecilia Tan Grade: C+

Slow Seduction by Cecilia Tan Grade: C-

Slow Satisfaction by Cecilia Tan Grade: D+

Asking for Trouble by Tessa Bailey Grade: B+

Dare to Love Series: Dare Me by Kelly Jamieson Grade: C-

Forbidden by Charlotte Stein Grade: C-

Baiting the Maid of Honor by Tessa Bailey Grade: C–

I hope you found this interesting. :) I had fun – it totally reminded me that I want/need to keep Kimberly Dean’s Courting series on my radar! And … despite my ridiculous love of tags, I’m not going to tag each book/author … I don’t think because O_O That’ll be like a book.

What books have you read? Were there any stand outs? Any recommendations? Have you read any of the books I read?

Don’t Faint! I’m Announcing Winners!

Hello Ladies! (No seriously, is there any dude who reads ALBTALBS? If yes, speak please, so I can figure out a proper/most awesome form of address.) This is a winner’s post! No lie. I’m starting with 2015… so … sorry if I missed things. If I did, feel free to let me know. I’m just not up to checking. Going back into 2014 for various reasons will make me want to kill myself. >.> … Probably. But it’s not a theory I’m willing to test. Especially since today has been … off. And to be honest I’m kinda impressed with myself that I’ve even been posting at least every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday so far this year. Let’s all keep our expectations for me low, shall we? (No really, please do that.)

So whatever. Whine whine whine, amirite? I also still need to write An Explanations to Heritage Posts … probably. >.> Right? Cuz everyone’s all WE NEED DIVERSITY AND DIVERSE BOOKS IN ROMANCE! And then … >.>

Oh also? People who are loyal readesrs – which I only know by comments, sometimes get bonus things. Like Diane faithfully brightens by day with comments … and she got two signed books from Kate Pearce because it. Just because. See? I do try to spread love and happiness… sometimes behind the scenes, and sometimes not so behind the scenes cuz I want you to talk to me! … And to the guests. Otherwise what if nobody ever comes back every again to play with us at ALBTALBS ever?!?!?!?

Heh.

So … Winners. If a post has already had winners etc, e.g. Deelylah Mullin’s post, I’m just not going to list it. … Starting now, of course. :X

These are the January Giveaway Posts/Winners:

For Cathy Yardley’s post her winner is Shannon

Jessica Scott’s winner is sharonchalk

With Alexandra Christian her winner is ki pha

Susanna Fraser’s winner XD by default is bn100

The wonderful Leslie Kelly has two winners, and they are eawells and Shelly S

ALBTALBS friend Lorelie Brown is always generous and offers a giveaway, and this time her winner is mathlady68

Fiona Lowe’s winner is Diane Sallans

Elizabeth Andrews was here and her winner is Michelle

In February… there was just one – my flash giveaway of Katharine Ashe’s I Married the Duke and the winner of a kindle copy of this fabulous story is Ada!

If you won something, please email me – there’s a handy dandy contact form if you don’t have my email. To help expedite things, please make the subject “WINNER: [Author name]” For example, Shannon’s email subject to me would be “WINNER: Cathy Yardley.” This will ideally ensure I won’t miss your email.

Everyone has until … 11:59 PM EST on March 7th to email me to claim her prize.

Ready, set … GO!

[Aren’t we all surprised I actually did this? It’s been too long. My apologies.]

SBHM Feature: Dee Carney

Hello ladies! I can’t believe that February is ending today! I’d be all like “let’s kill this bitch!” but … Daylight Savings approacheth and I’m saving all my killing for that. >:( *hisses* …  Anyway, we’ve got Dee Carney visiting with us today! She’s closing out [Smithsonian] Black History Month! I hope you’ve been introduced to some new authors and new reads!

So without further ado … Dee!

Brush StrokesFirst, I’d like to thank you Limecello for inviting me to your blog again this year. It’s always a pleasure to be featured here.

But…

I have a confession to make. The last year in publishing has been extremely rough for me. I got divorced about a year ago and from the six months prior to that event up until a few months ago, I was on a severe dry writing spell. I couldn’t think about romance. All creative juices—vanished. I also felt like a fraud. Who would want to read stories from a romance writer who couldn’t stay married past fourteen years? Where is her happily ever after (HEA)?

Fortunately, I have a wonderful family. My father reminded me that he’d been married for a very brief period prior to marrying my mother. This August they will be celebrating forty-two years of marriage. He said that if he hadn’t gotten divorced way back when, he might not have ever met my mother and had the wonderful life he’s had. <3

So, after wallowing in self-pity for more than a year, I wrote a proposal for one of my publishers and they sent me back a two-book contract. I suddenly went from having nothing to write to damned well better get moving.

I also knew something was different. I’ve been in this business for a while and in my early days, I wrote whatever story jumped into my head and screamed the loudest. Now, several years wiser, I wanted to focus. So let me tell you another confession. (I promise this is all leading to a point. Bear with me.)

My very first published story was entitled Soldier. (Very creative. I know.) Anyway, for the eighteen of you who read it, you have my eternal thanks, but also, recall that not once in that story did I ever describe the heroine other than to say she had dark hair and eyes. You see, when I’d first starting writing, I didn’t think people wanted to read the kinds of stories I wanted to read. I mean, I knew all about Kimani with their very sexy African-American heroes and heroines, but that wasn’t me. I grew up in Miami, one of America’s melting pots. When it comes to relationships and men, I am equal opportunity. I’ve dated white, black, and brown; lusted after yellow. I didn’t think the people I read or wrote about should be confined to dating within their race. So Soldier was an interracial romance, but I never told anyone.

Once BurnedThis past year, my coworker introduced me to this insanely daring show about a white politician having an affair with an intelligent, beautiful black woman. Oh, I forgot to mention…he’s also the President of the United States. Whaaaat? I binge-watched the first two seasons over the course of a weekend. I saw Scandal and read up on Shonda Rhimes, its creator, and knew, just knew, I needed to start writing again. I needed to be blazing a path for the readers like me, writing the stories that people haven’t seen yet.

So I’m back because I believe in HEA and know it will happen for me.* I need the stories that I like to read out there because someone else might need to hear that HEA message at a down point in their lives. We all deserve a HEA or at least, have the opportunity to believe in one.

So I’m back and have narrowed my writing focus. I have to stay true to my first loves in the romance genre: paranormal and contemporary. I’m inspired by Shonda’s brazenness and have started a hospital-based serial about a multicultural cast of people, some who will get a happily ever after and a few who will only get a happy for now ending. I’m reading more books with people of color and am wearing T-shirts that say #WeNeedDiverseBooks. I’m as loud and outspoken as I ever have been because my voice is needed in the world. Me and my stories deserve to be here.

I’m back world. Watch out.

*Between me, you and the Internet, I’m currently living a friends-to-lovers real life romance and couldn’t be happier.

About the author: Dee Carney started her writing career in elementary school, creating amazing journeys starring her friends, where everyone lived happily ever after by page five. Since then, she’s been a waitress, a teacher, a scientist and a nurse. Today, Dee is a best-selling, award-winning author of over thirty novels and novellas, including those penned by her alter ego, Morgan Sierra.

Visit her on the web at sign up for her mailing list and receive an email when a new Dee Carney title is available.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Dee. I’m so sorry you had a difficult ~year. I can’t even imagine, but I’m glad things are looking up for you. And that you’re writing again. Congratulations on the new contract and here’s to many more for you!

SBHM Feature: Farrah Rochon

Hi friends! We’re near the end of February, and today we have Farrah Rochon visiting with us. She’s been an ALBTALBS guest before so I think we can all expect good things, yes? ;)

How I Managed My Unwieldy Small Town Romance

Forever With YouI think it’s pretty safe to say that small town romances have become somewhat of a thing. You’d better prepare yourself for a fight if you want to convince some readers that they can’t stop in for a meal at Preacher’s bar in Virgin River or that they can’t get an ice cream cone on the boardwalk over in Lucky Harbor. Lovers of Robyn Carr and Jill Shalvis will know just what I’m talking about. Romance readers (myself included) have fallen in love with the sometimes quirky, often unique, and always entertaining small towns that have become so popular in today’s contemporary romances.

As someone who grew up in a town of about two thousand people with zero stoplights (heck, we only have a few stop signs), I figured I would eventually write my own small town romance. Even though I absolutely love the big city, I have always been and will continue to be a small-town girl at heart. When I set out to create the fictional town my characters would call home, I knew I wanted to put in a dash of my real small town to add authenticity to the stories. But what makes it even better is that I was able to change some of the things I don’t particularly like about my hometown, creating the perfect fictional haven. Seriously, I would live there if I could.

What I didn’t know is that the three-book series would blossom into six-books and counting, or that even with those extra stories it still wouldn’t be enough to contain it. You see, even though Gauthier, Louisiana, the fictional setting of my Bayou Dreams series with Harlequin’s Kimani Romance line, is your traditional small town, it has a BIG personality and has become as much a character in the series as the heroes and heroines. In fact, things became some unwieldy that it required me to take drastic measures.

I Dare YouSo, what did I do when my small town got a little too cumbersome? I started a spin-off series set in a neighboring small town, of course!

In A Forever Kind of Love, the first book in the Bayou Dreams series, the town of Maplesville is presented as somewhat of a villain, but I realized that it had just as much personality as Gauthier, and it too was brimming with stories to tell. With my Moments in Maplesville novella series, readers can now get a glimpse of what’s happening to their favorite characters over in Gauthier while falling in love with the town they were first taught to hate. Pretty cool, huh?

What are some of your favorite small town romances?

So how about it? Farrah and I want to know! Do you read small town romances? Are you a fan of them? Are you a small town gal (or guy?)