Friday, February 8, 2013

"How Did I Come Up with the Windham Family?" a Guest Blog by Grace Burrowes (and GIVEAWAY!)

I'm excited to have author Grace Burrowes as a guest on Laura's Reviews today.  I love her bestselling Windham series and this post on how she came up with the complex, loveable family is fascinating.  Enjoy!

How Did I Come Up with the Windham Family? by Grace Burrowes
I’m seven books into the Windham series, and nobody has asked me this yet, which surely qualifies it as great question.

Of the Windham siblings, I started off writing Westhaven’s story first, and because every hero needs reflection characters, I gave Westhaven a couple brothers who by turns support and exhort his lordship. They were good fellows, those two, so good in fact, that after serving their terms in The Heir, they merited books of their own, The Soldier and The Virtuoso.

Because families of the Regency period tended to be large, I also sprinkled a few sisters into the mix, and because most families also lost somebody to disease, I consigned one brother to an unfortunate demise as a function of consumption. Then too, the Napoleonic wars were taking a toll, so the loss of the late ducal heir also hovers over the family. I was trying for historical accuracy, but in fact, I got much more than that.

When my editor gave me the opportunity to write a Christmas story, it seemed only natural to turn to a Windham sister for inspiration, and wasn’t it convenient that she had three older brothers riding in from the east to meddle with her happily ever after? Lady Sophie didn’t quite see it that way…

With Sophie’s tale complete in draft, I could have turned back to the manuscripts preceding the Windham’s, written completely new material, or come up with stories for the remaining four Windham sisters. My editor’s guidance was to write the sisters’ stories, and it turned out to be good guidance.

I am relatively new at this published author business, having seen my first book in print little more than two years ago. Having one milieu to work in across many books let me focus on the writing and the stories, and spend a bit less time on the research and the world building. Then too, readers have become fond of the family, something I did not anticipate, and the family members are fond of one another.

It’s interesting to me that often, the scene in each book that readers will say got to them—St. Just reading his mother’s letters with Valentine, Maggie finally accepting Her Grace as her mother, His Grace waiting with Eve at the back of the church on her wedding day—are not scenes between the lovers, but rather, family scenes.

I’m a child welfare attorney, and I see families on the verge of falling apart, pulling back from the brink of disaster, and falling into complete disarray. More to the point, I’m the sixth out of seven children, and my family members are among my favorite people on the entire planet.

So where did the Windham family come from? From my own formative years, from what I see in the courtroom, from historical realities, from editorial guidance. Mostly, the Windham family came from my belief that when two people love each other and commit to a lifetime together, that love creates family. It might not be biological family, it might not be a big family, but love and family are intertwined, and mutually reinforcing.

Then too, Their Graces were such fun characters are parents… I do wonder what tricks they’ll get up to as grandparents. Don’t you?


Lady Eve's Got The Perfect Plan…

Pretty, petite Evie Windham has been more indiscreet than her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Moreland, suspect. Fearing that a wedding night would reveal her past, she's running out of excuses to dodge adoring swains. Lucas Denning, the newly titled Marquis of Deene, has reason of his own for avoiding marriage. So Evie and Deene strike a deal, each agreeing to be the other's decoy. At this rate, matrimony could be avoided indefinitely...until the two are caught in a steamy kiss that no one was supposed to see.

Praise for Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal:

"Burrowes delivers red-hot chemistry with a masterful mix of playfulness and sensuality."—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"A tantalizing, delectably sexy story that is one of the best yet from an author on the way to the top."—Library Journal Starred Review

"A delight...strikingly unique characters with realistic emotions and exciting antics."—RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

"Captivating...historical romance at its finest and rife with mystery and intrigue."—Romance Fiction on Suite 101


Grace Burrowes is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical romances. Her debut, The Heir, was selected as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for 2010 in the romance category, and Lady Louisa’s Christmas Wish won RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Historical Romance of 2011 and was also nominated for the prestigious RWA RITA© award. The author of the bestsellers The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, and Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish, Grace is a practicing attorney and lives in rural Maryland. She’ll conclude to the Windham Family Series with Lady Jenny’s story in October 2013, and will begin a new regency series with Darius in April 2013. She also has a Scottish Victorian series as well, beginning with The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012. Please visit or follow her on Twitter: @GraceBurrowes for more information.

To Purchase Lady Eve’s Indiscretion:


Barnes and Noble

Sourcebooks has graciously offered a prize pack of the two books—Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal and Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight (the two books that come before Lady Eve’s Indiscretion). 

If you would like to win this prize pack please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the these books, Lady Eve's Indiscretion or about author Grace Burrowes Guest Blog.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday February 22, 2013.

Please make sure to check the last week of February to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Title: The Last Runaway

Author: Tracy Chevalier
Read by: Kate Reading
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Length: Approximately 10 hours (8 CDs)
Source: Penguin Audio Review Copy – Thank-you!

I love Tracy Chevalier’s historical fiction novels. Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Virgin Blue, and Burning Bright are some of my favorite novels. I was very excited by the opportunity to review Chevalier’s latest novel on audiobook, The Last Runaway.

The Runaway explores a fascinating chapter of American History, the Underground Railroad that helped runaway slaves escape to Canada, especially prevalent in the 1850’s. I have always been fascinated by the Underground Railroad. I grew up in Union City, Michigan, which was a station along the railroad. There was a tunnel used on the underground railroad discovered during road construction in the 1990’s and many tales of hidden tunnels and passageways in town. Especially interesting is that four incomplete sets of mystery bones have recently been discovered in the home of a known stationmaster, John Zimmerman ( This is worthy of a blog post or novel of its own, but I am fascinated with this era of history.

Moving back to the book review, Chevalier explores the trials of being involved with the Underground Railroad. Honor Bright is a young English Quaker. Jilted by her fiancée, she leaves England with her sister for a new life in America. After tragedy strikes, Honor finds herself alone and in a very awkward situation. Honor makes the best of it, but finds herself adrift in Ohio. She begins to help with the Underground Railroad as slavery is against her Quaker believes. She soon learns that things are not always black and white in the Quaker world for slavery. What is the morality if a Quaker does not help a slave, but also does not turn them in? What is a Quaker obeys the letter of the Fugitive Slave law even though it is against their moral believes? Weighty topics are to be had in this novel.

Honor is also a part of a love triangle. I didn’t think I would ever think kindly of a slave catcher, but Donovan is a real three-dimensional figure that Honor abhors, yet is attracted to. Interesting and colorful characters are found throughout the novel.

Another fascinating part of the novel was quilting. Honor is an expert at making quilts and all are awed by her sewing skills. Honor brings her English quilting ways to America, but soon finds that things are done differently in America.

The central question of the novel is if Honor can find her way in America. Whether she can learn to adapt to American ways and leave her old English ways behind. It is also a question of moral beliefs. How firm should one stick to their beliefs amidst adversity?

This was a fascinating audiobook to listen too. I enjoyed Kate Reading’s narration, except for when she was Honor’s voice while talking or reading letters. She gave Honor a very strange voice and accent that annoyed me. All of her other voices were excellent.

Overall, I highly recommend this book – I’m still thinking about it two weeks after I finished it!

Insane City by Dave Barry

Title: Insane City

Author: Dave Barry

Read by: Dave Barry

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Length: Approximately 8 hours (7 CDs)

Source: Penguin Audio Review Copy – Thank-you!

I love Dave Barry’s humor. I was a fan of his newspaper column in years past and I also enjoyed his humorous novel, Lunatics (co-authored with Alan Zweibel) last year. While I enjoyed the first part of Lunatics, I thought it spiraled off too far into crazy during the last half of the novel. Happily, Insane City was able to keep a great, consistent, yet surprising humorous story throughout the novel. I greatly enjoyed listening to the audiobook on my trips to and from work, and the constant laughs it elicited in me helped to break the monotony of my drive.

Seth Weinstein is not that successful in life. His career is writing tweets for douche, but he has been successful in love. Tina is a beautiful high powered attorney from a wealthy family. Seth knows she is way out of his league, but he is more than a little bit happy that she has agreed to become his wife. Tina has always enjoyed Seth’s brand of humor and the fact that he is a nice guy, but the wedding has transformed her into a bit of a bridezilla. Seth is afraid to let Tina down. Everything is going smoothly until his “groom posse” leads him out for a night on the town once they arrive in Florida right before the wedding.

Suddenly, Seth finds himself in a series of unfortunate, but hilarious events. As he makes his way through them with the ultimate goal of finding Tina’s lost wedding ring and making it to the wedding on time, Seth finds out many truths about himself, Tina, and his friends. He also makes a host of new memorable friends as well.

One item that I thought was brilliant in this book was the juxtaposition of the Haitian refugees with the debauchery of the bachelor party / wedding. While the refugees were literally fighting for their life, hoping for a better one in American, the consumption of the entire wedding party was crass. It was jarring to go from hilarity to sobriety, but I thought it made an excellent point on our society. It also soon became part of the main story once the refugees were rescued by our hero. There were many points that Barry made in this novel that were so true to human nature, it was humor in its best form – a great point that makes us laugh while also makes us think about our own humanity.

Dave Barry was the narrator of this audiobook and he was excellent. He brought the novel to life. I sometimes wondered how he could read the novel without laughing himself!

Overall, Insane City is a wacky comedy that has shades of The Hangover and Bridesmaids, but it ultimately goes beyond those stories to become a hilarious story that also showcases our humanity.