Tag Archives: holidays

Books: Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Here’s another one that I didn’t realize was part of a series until I read some of the other reviews after the fact. It seems like, though, that the main female character in this book was a minor character in a previous book, so maybe I didn’t miss anything too important.

First, the pros of the prose, so to speak: I like stories where a middle-age woman gets to have a romance. And I’m a sucker for a whirlwind foreign romance, too.

That’s about all I can say that I enjoyed about this book.

The tale in a nutshell (no spoilers): 54-year-old Vivian goes to England over the Christmas holiday with her daughter who has been tapped to help dress an unnamed Duchess. This means they’re staying on the Sandringham estate, in the Duke and Duchess’ “cottage,” no less. Well, okay, I guess I can relax my sense of reality in the name of wish fulfillment. But I won’t say it was easy.

Anyway, Vivian meets Malcolm, the Queen’s private secretary. And they hit it off. And… that’s really the whole story, more or less. There are contrived conflicts, but they never last more than a couple pages because both Vivian and Malcolm are incredibly reasonable people. So there’s no real tension, just a sense of meandering as Malcolm introduces Vivian to first Sandringham and then London. And then they must negotiate their long-distance relationship, and that’s pretty much it.

What I saw in many reviews was that this book was boring, and I’d mostly agree. It’s cute, but it’s far from compelling. Neither Vivian nor Malcolm are a commanding presence on the page. The reader alternates between their POVs, but most of what we’re privy to is repetitive and fairly uninteresting. In fact, the big drawback here is that there is so much telling in this story and so very little showing. We’re told over and over again how attracted each of these characters is to the other, but I never really felt that at all. I was just supposed to believe it because they said so.

Also, a lot of these characters sounded alike. You would think a woman from Oakland, California would sound pretty distinctly different from a man serving in the Queen’s household, but… apparently not! Everyone in this book says or thinks “wow” constantly. And on one page I read “Thank God” no fewer than three times in as many paragraphs. Enough to draw my attention, anyway. Was this book rushed to print? Did it get an edit at all? Did they talk to anyone from England? “Wow” is not something I’ve heard a lot while there (and I’ve spent a fair amount of time in London).

Pffftt. I dunno. This one just didn’t work for me. I so wanted to like it, and from what I’ve heard maybe her other books are better? Or maybe her writing style just isn’t something I can jive with. ::shrug::

Valentine’s: Yay or Nay?

Happy Valentine’s Day! In our house, it’s pretty much an average day, except that the kids come home from school with armloads of candy and cards. Feels to me like a waste of paper in most cases. There’s nothing particularly sincere or sentimental in these cards; in fact, they usually aren’t directly addressed to my children, only signed by whichever classmate handed them out. That’s how they do it now. Saves time if you can just drop it in whatever bag or box the kids have decorated without searching for the exact one addressed to the right person.

Aside from the economy and marketing, I’m not sure why school kids celebrate Valentine’s Day at all. Sure, as they get older and begin to form real ties of friendship and affection, it makes sense for them to give the people they truly care about a card or token. But other than that? My third grader really doesn’t care. Except about the candy, of course.

And yet, it’s my third grader whose class is having a party. My fifth- and seventh graders are completely disinterested in Valentine’s Day because it is uncool and embarrassing. So even though they are the ones with strong social circles, they won’t be exchanging valentines.

It’s all just a bit backward.

But I’m hardly one to talk. My husband and I also do not usually observe Valentine’s Day. This is the night when, if you do go out, places are crowded and the food isn’t as good. We’d just as soon go out some other night. Which is what we do anyway when we have date nights. For Valentine’s Day, we don’t buy cards, and with my diet restrictions, I can’t have candy. Heck, I probably can’t even eat from the “Valentine’s Day Menus” at most restaurants. So why bother?

On the flip side, Valentine’s Day (and the days surrounding) is a cluster of my friends’ birthdays. For whatever reason, I seem to draw to me people born around this time of year. So I’m just as happy, or happier, to give them all the attention. As someone born near to Christmas, I know what a pain it is to have a birthday near a holiday that eclipses your day. Romance can happen any day of the year, but birthdays should be special.

How about you? Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Am I just taking my marriage and husband for granted by not making a bigger deal of the day? Do your kids care about Valentine’s Day, or are they over it? And how do you feel about birthdays that fall on or near holidays? Let me know in the comments!

17 Years

<— I haven’t seen my natural hair color in years!

Seventeen years ago today, in the garden of a little Victorian “mansion” (let’s face it, it was a house), we were married. It was Mother’s Day then, too. We hadn’t known when we picked the date that it would be Mother’s Day, but oh well. At least my best friend Tara was also our florist and got us the flowers at cost.

It was a small ceremony, not even 100 guests. We wanted to be able to talk to everyone at the reception. So many of our friends and family contributed in various ways—my dad’s best friend is a professional photographer, and he came and took all our photos as a gift to us; Scott’s cousin works in the film industry and was our videographer (using the camera we’d been given as a wedding gift). He did this amazing thing where he went around and spoke to people to ask them how they knew me and/or Scott and to give little memories about us.

We were married by a Reform rabbi who incorporated both religious backgrounds into the ceremony. (When people ask, “Oh, are you Jewish?” I answer, “Only by marriage.”) It was sweet and personal and unique and very us.

So here’s to 17 years of holding it together. And also a happy Mother’s Day, which we will spend at a haunted house. Should be fun?

A Random Pile of Thoughts

Well, 2018 is 25% finished. How have you done so far this year? How are you feeling? Looking at the goals I set at the start of the year, well . . . Um . . . I’ve had to rearrange a few things. Here’s what I originally set:

  1. Finish Changers 2. Deadline: 1 March
  2. Find an agent for Hamlette. Deadline: 1 May
  3. Lose 15 lbs. Deadline: 1 June
  4. Finish Faebourne. Deadline: 1 September

Changers 2 is not anywhere near finished. In fact, it’s been backburnered in favor of Faebourne, which now has a pub date of 7 August. So that’s been prioritized.

As for Hamlette, based on feedback from agents, my hopes for it have dimmed considerably. I’m now at the point where I need to decide whether to trunk it or self-publish.

But I’m pleased to say I’ve lost some weight! I now only have 10 lbs to lose.

Revised goals:

  1. Finish Faebourne. Deadline: 20 July
  2. Lose 10 lbs. Deadline: 1 June
  3. Finish Changers 2. Deadline: ???
  4. Decide what to do with Hamlette Deadline: ???

Today is Easter as well as April Fool’s Day. I’m not one for pranks. I don’t have the patience for that kind of thing; I guess I’m too serious-minded. It’s why I don’t watch movies with juvenile bathroom humor. I just don’t find that funny.

Still, the kids hunted eggs this morning. One of the plastic eggs had been eaten through by a squirrel, which makes me worry the squirrel went away with a stomach ache. Eating plastic like that can’t have been good for him. But bravo for the determination, little guy. (And he did take some of the candy out of the egg, too. So it wasn’t entirely for naught.)

We went to a Passover seder last night, too, at my in-laws. So there are just a lot of holidays stacked this weekend. And it’s spring break for my kids as well.

It occurred to me recently that my kids have somewhat posh hobbies. My daughter takes horseback riding lessons, and the boys do fencing. And this morning they were all out back doing archery. I suppose it’s all good until one of them decides they want to take up tennis.

Here is hoping you have a wonderful holiday, whichever you may celebrate, and a wonderful spring in general. And I hope any goals you set for 2018 are beginning to bear fruit—more than mine, anyway!

BTW, tune in to the Indie Beginning podcast tomorrow to hear some of Brynnde! And the following Monday, April 9, will feature yours truly!

The Naughty List: A Holiday Writing Tag from Jenna Moreci

Find it for yourself here.

THE RULES:

1) Provide a brief description of your novel before beginning. NO MORE THAN 5 SENTENCES.

2) If your cast is fewer than 15 characters, you can’t use the same name more than twice. If your cast is larger than 15 characters, you can’t use the same name more than once.

MY NOVEL:

16-year-old Nerissa Dey is the daughter of an A-list actor. When her dad dies unexpectedly, Nerissa hurries home from boarding school to discover her mom has married her dad’s brother. Now she’s living out a Shakespeare drama and trying to avoid the tragic ending.

THE QUESTIONS:

#1 Which character is SO into the holidays, they nearly cause a street-wide power outage from all their Christmas lights?

Mrs. Polley. Hey, she bakes cookies practically every day.

#2 Which character attends the office new years party with ONE date… and goes home with someone else?

Liam. He’s not a player or anything, he’s just easily distracted by a pretty face.

#3 Which character is more than happy to steal Hanukkah gelt from poor, unsuspecting children? [Note: Hanukkah gelt = chocolate coins]

Uncle Eoin, of course.

#4 Fill in the blanks: I saw ____[character]____ doing a whole lot more than ____[verb]____-ing Santa Claus. They were full on ____[action]____.

Rosalind; kissing; snogging.

#5 One of your characters decides to pregame before church and passes out in the middle of the Christmas service. Which character is it?

Ophelia Chase (Nerissa’s mom).

#6 Which character hasn’t been seen since winter began because they refuse to deal with the snow?

Nerissa!

#7 Which character completely forgot about the holidays and ends up regifting to everyone?

Also Nerissa.

#8 Which character has such crappy luck, they only discover their potato allergy after pigging out on latkes?

Gwendolyn. Poor girl.

#9 The Krampus has arrived to punish your very bad characters. Which character is kinda into it?

Rosalind.

#10 One of your characters should be on the naughty list, but has convinced Santa to clear their name. Which character is it, and what was their means of persuasion?

Nerissa’s mom Ophelia. She paid Santa off.

IWSG: Regrets?

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Question of the Month: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

I recently posted a retrospective of 2017 in terms of my writing, and overall it’s been a really good year. However, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do some things a little differently! For one, instead of releasing one book in February and another in May, I’d have spread them out more. I had strong sales over the summer, but due to a lack of anything new (except my Moriarty story), things began slumping come October. Well, I attribute at least some of that slump to having no other big release. I know part of it is probably holidays, too. I really should write something seasonal . . .