2021: A Look Back And Book Of The Year

Hello, fellow romance lovers!  Today is the day!  I am looking back on 2021 and revealing my book of the year and five books that resonated with me.  I have a special surprise for you.  I have an interview with the author of the year!  I also have a giveaway of three ebooks!  More about those later.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Beyond looking back on the beautiful books I read in 2021, January is the first anniversary of my blog!  One year ago, I started with no knowledge of blog design and one advance copy to review.  Everything I have done is self-taught, and I am now averaging eighteen book reviews each month.  My following has grown, and I want to thank everyone who encouraged me to start something I am passionate about and for pushing me to take that leap!  Thank you, followers, authors, and publishers!  For those of you who are new, thanks for visiting!

Book Of The Year

When I thought about the books I read this year; one book instantly stood out.  This book is Pippa And The Prince Of Secrets by Grace Callaway.  I read this book in August, and Cull and Pippa still jump out at me as vivid, organic characters.  This novel instantly became one of my top ten favorites, and both Cull and Pippa are two of my all time favorite characters.  This book is haunting, enchanting, and intensely sensual.  Cull and Pippa’s fiery love story is simply stunning.  Grace Callaway was kind enough to grant me an interview.  Thanks, Grace!  I am also having a giveaway of three ebooks.  I cannot recommend Pippa And The Prince Of Secrets enough!

Author Interview

What book did you read that influenced you to become a writer?  Are there any authors that influence you?  What is your all-time favorite book, one you’ve read so much it is falling apart?

I’ve loved reading all my life, and there are so many books that have influenced me. When it comes to romance, some of my earliest loves were Jane Eyre and Anne of Green Gables. Not only did I adore the heroes (hello Gilbert Blythe and Mr. Rochester), but I felt like I could be best friends with the heroines. I have a keeper shelf full of well-loved books. Two that stick out are Once and Always by Judith McNaught (held together by a rubber band) and Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale. 

When was the moment where you knew you were going to start writing historical romance?

Um, when I opened a Word document one day and started writing and the scene that came out was that of a newlywed lady who’d tracked her husband down to a bawdy house. That’s when I knew lol. 

Why historical romance?

Historical romance was my first love. I love the world building, the lush costumes and backdrops, and the escapism that a different time in history provides.

Out of all your characters, in all your books, which one sticks with you the most

Gah, this is too hard! Every character has a special place in my heart, which is why you may notice some of them keep reappearing lol. 

What is your favorite kind of scenes to write?

Intimate scenes, with or without sex. They are also the most difficult to write but also reveal the most about character.

How do you keep your books historically relevant?

I do a lot of research to get the feel of an era. I also try to add historically accurate details without burdening the story with excess information (which, for me as a reader, gets dull). Generally, I’m more interested in the zeitgeist of the times I write in and the relevance to modern day than producing a carbon copy of any given period. At the end of the day, I think most writers in Romancelandia pick and choose what “historically accurate” details they want in their books.   

How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?  The ones that make me laugh complain that your books are too steamy!  I know going into a Grace Callaway book that I am going to get a quality steamy, sensual read…which is a reason I read your books!  Some authors place content warnings on their blurbs; do you think that necessary?  

I have never been under the delusion that my books will appeal to everyone lol. Negative reviews are part of life. I write what I love to read and am grateful that I’ve found readers who enjoy my words as much as I love writing them. In my blurbs, I try to make clear that my books are steamy and passionate (as well as full of humor, mystery, and adventure). I understand why some authors might place content warnings on their blurbs, but I don’t do it myself simply because everyone has different triggers, and I never know what someone might find offensive. As a reader myself, I always read a sample of the book and some reviews before buying to make sure this is something I want to read, and I think this is a good practice for any reader.    

When did you first call yourself an author?

It took me awhile, especially since I had another professional career during the day. I think that starting with my second series, Heart of Enquiry, I realized that writing was more than a hobby for me. After a lot of agonizing, I quit my job as a psychologist to commit to writing full-time…and that’s when I started thinking of myself as a professional writer. 

Questions about Pippa and The Prince Of Secrets

Your books are interconnected, family members and past secondary characters often getting their books.  How do you choose whose story is next?  I have read some authors have charts and carefully plan out each novel, knowing where the following few books are going.  I have also read some authors allow the characters to decide, one interview, I read the author was writing one book and had to completely change direction as one secondary character would not leave her head “demanding” their story to be told!  How does your creative process work?  Are you more of an organizer, or do you let the characters “direct” you? 

I’m probably somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser when it comes to planning a series and writing a book. I have a general idea planned out, but more often than not, some other idea will crop up organically that feels right, and I will follow it. I have definitely had the experience of characters telling me what to do rather than the other way around lol.

Cull and Pippa’s story influences Beauty And The Beast, one of my favorite tropes!  This trope often focuses on the “beast’s” journey from pain to acceptance to love, and Cull did have this journey.  However, I felt you did something different; it seemed that Pippa had her “beast” journey too.  Pippa went from not trusting her judgment in men, having no self-confidence, and feeling physically and sexually insecure to a woman confident in her choices and sexuality.  I loved Pippa’s journey from feeling inadequate to finding her confidence.  What creative choices influenced Pippa’s journey?

I wanted to write a story that explored a heroine’s journey of self-discovery. Even though Pippa’s story takes place in 1850, I think so many of the issues she struggles with affect women today, from putting her own needs first to owning her right to pleasure to trusting herself. To me, her story is about coming into her own power as a woman and not letting others or society diminish her.

Pippa has been in what we would call now a “toxic” relationship; as a lot of us, I could relate to this; at times, her journey gutted me. It was so visceral.  Then there were beautiful moments that made me cry in a good way, for example, when Cull unmasks himself.  Writing these scenes must drain you emotionally; how do you gain equilibrium after writing a scene like that?

Every book that I write involves taking a journey with those characters, so yes, it is an experience that is by turns beautiful, difficult, rewarding, and exhausting. In other words, it is the human experience. Years ago, when I was working as a clinical psychologist, I learned the importance of self-care. To do the work and (not burn out), I have to stay healthy. For me, this includes regular exercise (I walk every day and dance 3-4 times a week), good sleep, and setting realistic goals and expectations. For me as a writer, this means accepting that I can only produce 1-2 quality books per year. And I’m okay with that because I think of writing as a marathon and not a sprint, and I need to pace myself in order to tell all the stories I want to tell.

The mystery in this book kept me guessing until the very end…where does your love of this aspect of the story come from?

In a nutshell, Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. After romance, mystery is my second love. 

Okay, I don’t want to give too much away…but the starling scene…WOW!  So beautiful.  You speak of this scene in the author’s notes…could you elaborate on the creative process of that scene? It was a highlight of the book.

So that was a scene that I experienced myself in real life. During the middle of the pandemic, at literally the darkest time of the year, I got to see those starlings doing their thing. It was amazing, exhilarating, and reminded me of that beauty is all around us, even at when things seem at their most grim. And it struck me as the perfect moment to give Pippa and Cull, two people who have been hurt so much by life, but who have such a capacity for hope and love as well.  

I have to ask, who would be your picks to portray Cull and Pippa on screen?

That question is probably better directed at my readers, who are way better at suggesting actors for my characters than I am lol. But I will take a stab: maybe Florence Pugh for Pippa and Richard Madden for Cull. 

Finally, can we get any hints as to what is to come?  I know Fi is next. Can we get any sneak peeks?  Do you have a stopping point for this series, or do you have plans to extend it out beyond the three original members of the Angels?

I’m working on Fi and Hawksmoor’s story right now. Unfortunately, no sneak peeks because I’m not done, which means everything could still change. I’ll just say that Fi and Hawk are keeping my studio quite sweltering despite the cold outside!

After Fi’s story comes Glory’s. I did a custom photo shoot for Glory’s cover and can’t wait to share the cover, which is one of my absolute favorites EVER. Then I have a story planned for Charlie and after that, we’ll see. I have a lot of characters hanging out in my head, so we’ll have to see who is most insistent about having their story told.

Is there anything you would like to say to all your fans out there?

Thank you! I’m so grateful for my readers, who have been incredibly supportive and kind. You all mean the world to me, and I truly could not do what I do without you. 

Thanks again for allowing us a glimpse into your life! 

Thank you for having me, Jenna!

GIVEAWAY!!!!  Grace has been kind enough to gift me three ebooks!  I am giving away three ebook copies of Pippa And The Prince Of Secrets!  Leave a comment regarding this post at the bottom of the page, and I’ll randomly choose three winners!  Enter by February 1, 2022.  I’ll be announcing the winners on February 3, 2022.  Good Luck!

Blurb and Buy Links

Will a lady from London’s high society and a brute from its darkest streets defy destiny and find everlasting love? Find out in this steamy Beauty and the Beast romance!

A Widow Gone Wild

After the tragic ending to her marriage, Pippa, the Countess of Longmere, vows never to fall in love again. The former paragon decides to live life by her own rules, finding new purpose as an agent with Lady Charlotte Fayne’s investigative society. As Pippa embarks on a dangerous mission, she encounters a man from her past who reawakens her youthful dreams and ignites her deepest desires…

A Brute with a Noble Heart

After surviving brutal beginnings, Timothy Cullen has become the powerful leader of the mudlarks, a gang of scavengers dealing in goods and information. Known as the Prince of Larks, Cull is a feared and mythical figure in the London underworld, and he lives in the shadows, using his mystique to protect those under his care. Yet beneath his scarred façade beats a secret longing: to be seen by the woman he has loved from afar since he was a lad…

A Love Written in the Stars

Brought together by a deadly mystery, Pippa and Cull discover fiery passion and all-consuming love. Yet their enemies, past and present, are closing in. In order to survive, they must surrender their secrets and trust in love…before time runs out.

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Sample Of Pippa And The Prince Of Secrets Audiobook

My Review

Author Info

USA Today & International Bestselling Author Grace Callaway writes hot and heart-melting historical romance filled with mystery and adventure. Her debut novel was a Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Finalist and a #1 National Regency Bestseller, and her subsequent novels have topped national and international bestselling lists. She is the winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense, the Maggie Award for Excellence in Historical Romance, the Golden Leaf, and the Passionate Plume Award. She holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan and lives with her family in a valley close to the ocean. When she’s not writing, she enjoys dancing, dining in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and going on adapted adventures with her special son.

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Grace’s Naughty Bluestockings Book Club

Five Books That Resonated With Me

These five books stood out and resonated with me on an elemental level.  Some of these authors were kind enough to share some thoughts on these books.  I enjoyed reading each one and highly recommend placing them on your tbr list!

Cocky Viscount by Annabelle Anders

One of my favorites! The instant I wrote the scene in Cocky Earl where Felicity is jilted, I knew she needed someone special. She needed a man who would walk through fire for her. Enter: Lord Manningham-Tissinton. A mouthful for sure! 😉😉

And what could be better than an unplanned pregnancy?

“(The Viscount ) is a giant with a velvet hand…” Elodie’s Reading Corner

Felicity’s followed the rules all her life. Things certainly got interesting when she finally broke them. Raised to marry the Earl of Westerley, she’s never failed to follow the dictates of society. Doing so, she’d been promised, ensured lifelong security and happiness. When her future is shattered, however, she decides it’s time she tests those rules—perhaps make up a few of her own. 

Viscount Manningham-Tissinton (Mantis) isn’t looking for a wife—especially not a lady considered a diamond of the first water. So when he stumbles upon Felicity, devastated by the betrayal at the hands of one of Mantis’ closest friends, he takes it upon himself to comfort her. With a single kiss, and then another—until a storm of passion ignites between them—a storm that threatens to land them both in scandal. Because breaking the rules comes with a price. 

Will that price be a lifetime of regret, or is it fate’s serendipitous design for their happily ever after? Only one way to find out…

-Annabelle Anders

My Review

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The Jewel Of An Earl’s Heir by Linda Rae Sande

The Jewel of an Earl’s Heir was such a fun book to work on since I was able to revisit characters I had created many years ago and learn so much about jewelry and gemstones of the era. 
Harry Tennison, Earl of Everly, made his first appearance in The Tale of Two Barons and then was the featured hero in The Epiphany of an Explorer, where he finally ended up with a duke’s daughter, Stella Jones. In this book, the two have grown children and lost some of the passion that originally brought them together. Interest from another man has Stella deciding she wants her husband, and she’ll do whatever she must to rekindle that romance. Of course, it doesn’t take much, and it was such fun writing their rediscovery of one another. 
Given their good looks (him so handsome and her half-Greek), it was inevitable they would bear a handsome son who had every debutante hoping they would catch his eye. As a result, it was important that Alexander have some sort of disability (color blindness), a hobby as all-consuming as botany was for his father (making jewelry), and that he not end up with a diamond-of-the-first-water when it came to his HEA. With her withered arm and knowledge of gemstones, Margaret was the perfect woman for him. 

-Linda Rae Sande

My Review

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The Heir And The Enchantress by Paullett Golden

After spending four books with the beloved character of Aunt Hazel, I enjoyed getting to know her as a starry-eyed young lady. Nothing compares to experiencing with her the blossoming of true love for the seemingly reserved Harold, a gentleman with hidden passions. 

Writing Hazel and Harold’s love story was a step into the past, not only within the timeline of the 18th century, but also in the life of a character I knew as the middle-aged Aunt Hazel. I had only ever written her as a secondary character, so to see the world through her eyes, and those eyes being inexperienced and naïve, was an incomparable journey. I was able to learn how she became the Aunt Hazel I knew from her later years.

Getting to know Harold was beyond fab. We don’t see him in the earlier books of the series, so there was a good bit of mystery about the man Hazel married, someone she claimedmore than once—to be her love match. As their story unfolded during the writing process, I was able to unveil the truth about that so called love match.

-Paullett Golden

My Review

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Tender Blackguard by Amy Sandas

It happened to be one of the most difficult books I’ve written to date, not only because of the extensive mystery plot (which was rather new to me) and the deep backstory, but also because I knew how important it would be to get these two characters just right! This love story is very loosely inspired by a couple of my all-time favorite characters…Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre. When I first read Jane Eyre as a young teen, I was captivated by the mystery and darkness surrounding Rochester and I fell in love with Jane’s stoic resolve. I wanted Tender Blackguard to have a similar feel. Moody and mysterious with layers of distrust and suspicion that would have to be overcome. But I also wanted the connection between Alastair and Lark to be undeniable and deep-rooted. I can only hope some of that comes across in their story!

-Amy Sandas

My Review

A Duke In Time by Janna MacGregor

Katherine Vareck is in for the shock of her life when she learns upon her husband Meri’s accidental death that he had married two other women. Her entire business, along with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a royal supplier, is everything she’s been working for and now could be destroyed if word leaks about the three wives.

Meri’s far more upstanding brother, Christian, Duke of Randford has no earthly clue how to be of assistance. He spent the better part of his adult years avoiding Meri and the rest of his good-for-nothing family, so to be dragged back into the fold is…problematic. Even more so is the intrepid and beautiful Katherine, whom he cannot be falling for because she’s Meri’s widow. Or can he?

With a textile business to run and a strong friendship forming with Meri’s two other wives, Katherine doesn’t have time for much else. But there’s something about the warm, but compellingly taciturn Christian that draws her to him. When an opportunity to partner in a business venture brings them even closer, they’ll have to face their pasts if they want to share each other’s hearts and futures.

My Review

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Thanks again for stopping by!  I want to send a special thank you to all the authors who contributed to this post.  If you like what you see and enjoy my reviews, please follow me!  I also do cover reveals, interviews, blog tours, and giveaways. Until next time!  All the best!

Published by jelee1976

I love to review historical romance books! I discuss book reviews, thoughts on authors and series, and just general stuff about me!

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