Monday, September 22, 2014

Aloha to Merryn Allingham and THE CRYSTAL CAGE

British author Merryn Allingham joins us today for a cozy chat about THE CRYSTAL CAGE:

Appearances don’t always reveal the truth. Grace Latimer knows this better than most. Illusions of commitment and comfort have her trapped—until bohemian adventurer Nick Heysham charms his way into her world. Commissioned to recover a Great Exhibition architect’s missing designs, he persuades her to assist in his research. The mystery of the Crystal Palace seduces Grace, and once she discovers clues about a forbidden Victorian love affair, she’s lured into the deep secrets of the past…secrets that resemble her own.

As Grace and Nick dig into the elusive architect’s illicit, long-untold story, the ghosts of guilt and forbidden passion slip free. And history is bound to repeat itself, unless Grace finds the courage to break free and find a new definition of love…

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Kim:  Thank you for your father's service. I am jealous that you lived in Egypt. Can you share a favorite memory?

Merryn:  Yes, my father was an officer in the Royal Artillery. I think my most vivid memory of Egypt is of an ordinary summer day, though for a child brought up in England, it was far from ordinary. For a start, school was open for only half a day, from eight in the morning until midday, when it became too hot to do anything as difficult as learn. After lunch was snooze time, for my parents at least. For me it was reading book after book – anything I could get my hands on - beneath a whirring ceiling fan and with a bar of Fry’s chocolate in my hand. It always had to be peppermint cream. Then it was off to swim in the very salty waters of the Great Bitter Lake, a part of the Suez Canal. I do remember that the walk home was blissfully cool.

Kim:  Readers will be envious of your travels while working in the airline industry. Do you draw on any of those experiences for your writing?

Merryn:  I haven’t so far, though I’ve plenty of material for future books. I guess that living in a country so full of history, it’s tempting not to stray far beyond its borders. However, I am venturing further afield with the trilogy I’ve just completed. In this case, it’s my parents’ travels that have inspired me. Just before the Second World War, my mother boarded a troop ship in Southampton bound for India, and married my father in Bombay (as it was then called). At the time, they hadn’t seen each other for six whole years. A true romance!

Kim:  Who or what helped you along the path to publishing?

Merryn:  I taught English Literature for years and I suppose that was a help in getting my first novel down on the page. In some ways, though, it was a hindrance too. Putting pen to paper is daunting when for years you’ve taught only the very best in writing. I got over that by writing in a genre that I knew and loved – Regency romance – and once my book was finished, I looked around for a publisher. You can see that I wasn’t terribly well organised! Harlequin are one of the few that welcome unsolicited manuscripts, so I submitted the novel to them and was thrilled when it was accepted. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing.

Kim:  Tell us about THE CRYSTAL CAGE - what inspired it?

Merryn:  Grace, the modern day heroine of The Crystal Cage, is at a crossroads in her life. Despite a smart home, a seemingly caring partner and a job that keeps her busy, she’s dissatisfied.The house isn’t hers, she finds her work tedious and she’s beginning to feel uncomfortably controlled by her partner. When Nick Heysham catapults into her life with a request that she help him complete a contract, she is ready to listen. Nick has been commissioned to find plans drawn for the Great Exhibition by Lucas Royde, the most influential of Victorian architects. At the same time, a trifling and apparently unrelated job – the haunting of a former school room - lands in her lap. By the end of the novel, Grace has uncovered connections that have stayed hidden for a century and a half. She has discovered, too, that a past tragedy has uncomfortable echoes for her own life.

There wasn’t one particular event or place that inspired the book. The idea of a glass cage through which women see the world, but which prevents them from actually living freely must have come from my unconscious. Perhaps it’s better not to enquire further! And the Crystal Palace was a magnificent setting for the Victorian love affair – original pictures of the building have a romance and colour to them. I have a fabulously detailed print on the wall of my writing room which shows the Inauguration Ceremony in all its glamour.

Kim:  What's next for Merryn Allingham?

Merryn:  I have a new contract with MIRA for a trilogy set in the 1930s and 1940s. The three books cover a period of ten years and move between India and wartime England. They follow the fortunes of Daisy Driscoll, a working class girl from London. Daisy has been brought up in an orphanage and her life has been hard and lonely. When she meets and falls in love with a young Indian Army officer on leave in London, it seems an impossible dream has come true. She is thrilled to be marrying a handsome cavalryman, thrilled to be travelling to India. But she soon discovers her bridegroom isn’t what he appears and instead of the happiness she’d imagined, she is faced with deception and danger and forced to call on every ounce of courage to survive. The next two books present her with new mysteries and new challenges. All three are connected by characters who appear in one or other of them, and through Daisy’s attempts to discover her identity and to find true love. You’ll be glad to know, I’m sure, that she gets her happy ending!

Mahalo, Merryn, for sharing your wealth of experience! 

Connect with Merryn Allingham on Facebook and Goodreads.   

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Follow along the blog tour:

Monday, September 15
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight & Excerpt at Romantic Historical Reviews

Tuesday, September 16
Review at A Bookish Affair
Excerpt at Casual Readers

Wednesday, September 17
Excerpt at CelticLady’s Reviews
Interview at What Is That Book About

Thursday, September 18
Review at Turning the Pages

Friday, September 19
Review at Queen of All Reads
Excerpt at Just One More Chapter

Monday, September 22
Review at Bibliotica
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Tuesday, September 23
Interview at SOS Aloha
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, September 24
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Thursday, September 25
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Excerpt at Princess of Eboli

Friday, September 26
Review at Unshelish
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, October 15
Review at The Worm Hole

Monday Night Romance with Tracy Solheim - Every Day Heroes

We're on Week Three with our special column for USA Today's HEA Blog.  Tracy and I planned this venture back in July, not realizing that we would land in the middle of a controversy.   So our column today addresses players as heroes at this 

For SOS Aloha, I'd rather talk about the heroes who walk among us in everyday life.   The chorus director at my church bubbles with energy in making a joyful noise.   My son's math teacher stays after school with the engineering club so the students embrace the technology of the future.   Parents lead the Scouts in volunteering with Honor Flight to welcome WWII Veterans at the BWI airport.   

These are the heroes in my life.

Honor Flight received a water salute upon
landing at BWI airport

Speaking of Boy Scouts, our troop lost a devoted leader when James Robinson suddenly passed away this past summer.  From his obituary, 

Outside of work, Jim was a pillar of his community, taking leadership roles in numerous church and civic organizations. He served as Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster of BSA Troop 424, Savage, MD, President of the Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a member of Project Healing Waters, and on countless boards and committees at Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Scaggsville. 

Mr. Robinson was also an Army veteran and father of a Marine veteran.  He often closed our troop meeting with a "scoutmaster moment", sharing words to inspire the scouts.  At the Scout meeting following his funeral, another troop leader shared a quote which so aptly described Mr. Robinson:

"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." Albert Pike

Who do you admire as a hero?  One randomly selected commenter wins a book choice from my convention stash.   Comments are open through Saturday, September 27, 10 pm in Baltimore.   I'll post the winner on Sunday, September 28.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Learn more about Honor Flight at

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Aloha to Amanda Forester and A WINTER WEDDING

What Every Regency Miss Needs to Know

A Letter from Miss Penelope Rose, Regency Matchmaker

Dear Friend,

I am so glad you have written to me to tell me of your recent arrival in London this chilly December, 1810. It seems London is more occupied than usual for this time of year due to the early opening of Parliament. I remember my first few months in London when my sisters and I arrived two years ago. Such a dizzying array of amusements! Some lessons, though, were painfully learned and I hope you will not reproach me for a few words of advice from your dearest friend as you enter your first London season.

First, your primary aim upon entering the season is to find a husband. Forgive such a blunt assertion, but I believe in plain speaking. You will be judged primarily by two men in your life–your father and your husband. I am not saying it is right, mind you, personally I find it perfectly ridiculous to weigh the worth of a lady by her connections, but this is the world we live in and we must make the best of it. Your excellent father we cannot do anything about, but your husband is entirely up to you.

I know some ladies will recommend you keep a pretty face, say as little as possible, and let the gentlemen decide whether or not to propose. But of course this is all nonsense. Let the men decide? They have had the run of human governance for hundreds of years now and look what a mess they have made of it. No, you must take your own destiny in hand and lead the course of human affection in its proper direction. Not to say that you cannot fall in love. Only take care to fall in love with a man of good character–and if you can manage it– of healthy fortune.

Unfortunately, due to the war, gentlemen are admittedly scarce, and ones of excellent character and modest habits are doubly difficult to find. Fortunately, in the course of providing assistance to my sisters I have augmented my copy of Debrett's Peerage to include much of what you will need to know in choosing a happy mate. The Dowager Duchess of Marchford, for whom I am now employed as her companion, has suggested we go into business using this book as the basis of a matchmaking enterprise under the name of Madam X. I shall rely on your discretion in this matter, for if the haute ton discovered the matchmaker is none other than myself, it should be such a scandal!

Of course you may have noticed that I myself remain unwed. For good or for ill, it seems I can only use my powers of matchmaking for the good of others and not myself. I am completely resigned now to a life of spinsterhood. Perhaps it is best, for my forthright nature may not have made me a good marriage partner for any but the most self-assured of men. This paragon of manhood I have yet to find, or at least if I have found him, he remains beyond my touch. But enough of such maudlin musings!

Might I suggest you come to tea and we can find you a few candidates for the perfect groom? I hope you will not find this too forward a suggestion, but I believe we can have you credibly settled within a few months if we act decisively. Naturally, we must always act with a high regard to decorum, but I have found a gentleman's affection can be directed down a proper path with some assistance. Of course we must allow the gentlemen to believe they actions were entirely of their own decision, otherwise they become obstinate and difficult to manage.

I must dash for the Duke of Marchford is calling for me. You may think it strange, but I have occasionally been of use to him in his investigations with the Foreign Office. I confess I have enjoyed these excursions more than I should, though whether I enjoy the activity or the duke more, it is difficult to say.

Love and affection,


Ps. Please burn this letter upon receipt. I have glanced over it and realize it would be disastrous were it fall into the wrong hands. I shall rely upon your discretion!

Read more about Penelope and Marchford, in A Winter Wedding now available. To get you started in the series, the first book in the trilogy, Wedding in Springtime is being offered FREE for a limited time, and Midsummer Bride is currently only $1.99.

This adventurous duke...

The Duke of Marchford requires a suitable bride, but catching spies for the Foreign Office takes up most of his time. Not wanting to face another London season as an eligible man, he employs the notorious Madame X to find him a match.

Has met his match

Miss Penelope Rose knows the rules of marriage among members of the ton better than most. Her own unsuccessful attempts at matrimony did not stop her from becoming London’s most exclusive matchmaker. Marchford proves to be a difficult client, but as he draws on her social expertise to help him flush out a dangerous traitor, they find that falling in love may be the riskiest adventure of all.

Buy Links:

Amazon: link
Apple: link
BAM: link
B&N: link
Chapters: link
IndieBound: link
Kobo: link

Amanda Forester holds a Ph.D. in psychology and worked for many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance novels was decidedly more fun. Whether in the Highland hills or a Regency ballroom, Forester’s critically acclaimed novels offer fast-paced adventures filled with wit, intrigue, and romance. She lives with her supportive husband and naturally brilliant children in the Pacific Northwest.

Amanda loves to hear from readers so visit her at her websiteFacebook, or Twitter

Mahalo, Penelope, for sharing your letter with my gentle readers!  Check out my review of A WINTER WEDDING at this link.   I am giving away a book choice from my convention stash to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1.  What do you like about Winter?

2.  Comments are open through Saturday, September 27, 10 pm in Baltimore.   

3.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, September 28.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Weekly Winners

I am a winner from our recent trip to New England - check out my pictures on my travel blog, Aloha On My Mind, at this link. I offered a book choice to one randomly selected commenter from last week's blog - Jane is the winner!  I have more posts to come along with more books to giveaway.

Patience Griffin's TO SCOTLAND WITH LOVE
- Martha wins a book choice from my convention stash.


USAF's 67th birthday with Showtime Book Trailers
- Ravensfan wins a book choice from my convention stash.

Monday Night Romance with Tracy Solheim - College Style
- Elizabeth H. wins a book choice from my convention stash.

- Cathy P. wins a copy from Amanda.


- Chey wins a digital copy from Christi.

State of Romance - California
- Susan P. wins a book choice from my convention stash.

Winners, please claim your prize by sending your mailing address to


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Friday, September 19, 2014

Celebrate Little Victories - Lisa Sugarman's LIFE: IT IS WHAT IT IS


Each Saturday, I feature "Celebrate Little Victories" - a term coined by Mary Gramlich, The Reading Reviewer (link).  She inspires me with her ability to juggle a full time job, blog about books, and play with her grandchildren.   Mary reminds me that we take one day at a time.  

Today I celebrate Lisa Sugarman's LIFE: IT IS WHAT IT IS:

We expend massive amounts of energy in pursuit of perfection. If only we could never make mistakes or encounter unpleasant obstacles, oh, wouldn't life be just perfect? Maybe, but it would also be static, unfulfilling, and really, really boring.

Humorist Lisa Sugarman knows that life is a work in progress. She knows what we all suspect-life is at its best when it's fluid, unpredictable, and gloriously imperfect. And if this means life sometimes turns ugly and unpleasant, it only makes the good times that much sweeter.

Author of opinion column "It Is What It Is," Lisa embraces reality, not perfection. We're supposed to be imperfect. We're meant to screw up, make bad decisions, and lose our way. We can't control everything that life throws at us, but we "can" control how we react to it.

With the right attitude and a little guidance from Lisa, anyone can be happy and fulfilled most of the time. Her collection of funny, inspiring, and sometimes poignant columns reminds us that life is not a straight line, even on the best of days, and it's the twists in the road which make the journey so beautiful.

Lisa hails from Marblehead, Massachusetts - a quintessential small town steeped in American history but one that is overshadowed by big brother Boston.  Perhaps that is why she is pragmatic.  From her bio (link),

Lisa received her bachelor of arts with honors from Salem State University in 1991 and attended Emerson College's MA in Writing, Literature & Publishing program. Since 1991 she has written for a number of Boston-area newspapers, including: the Canton Journal, the Randolph Herald, the Hingham Journal, the Cohasset Mariner, the Swampscott Reporter, the Jewish Journal, the Sharon Advocate, and the Stoughton Journal. Most recently, she has authored the semi-regular opinion column It Is What It Is for The Marblehead Reporter and other GateHouse Media, Inc. publications since 2009.

LIFE: IT IS WHAT IT IS is a refreshing reminder that we succeed in our busy lives when we take one day at a time.  Lisa draws from her column to offer practical advice for self improvement. Recommended read for those who enjoy humorous musing that may lead to a new attitude.   I am giving away a print copy of LIFE: IT IS WHAT IT IS to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1.  Share a positive saying (if you can think of one).

2.  Comments are open through Saturday, September 27, 10 pm in Baltimore.  

3.  I'll post the winner on Saturday, September 28.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City 

Follow Lisa on her blog, IT IS WHAT IT IS at this link.   

A teeshirt we spotted 
in Lexington, Massachusetts

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Aloha to Shelley K. Wall and TEXT ME

Textual Healing 
by Shelley K. Wall

In today’s world, we communicate more by electronic means than we do in person. We email. We text. We snapchat. We post via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media sites. And we rely on short blurbs and abbreviations to get our point across. 

But what happens when we get it wrong—when the receiver doesn’t get our acronym, or when autocorrect gets it auto-wrong? Or worse—we send the message to the wrong contact in our address book?

My husband recently sent a very sweet text to me, not realizing he was responding back to a group text I’d sent to the entire family some time earlier. It wasn’t bad, just romantic. My eldest son responded very quickly, “Uh, I really wish I hadn’t seen that.” Daughter added, “LOL. Gross.”

People often say things via electronic means that they don’t mean to say, or perhaps just get it completely wrong.

That’s the premise behind my latest release, Text Me. It’s a romantic comedy that begins through a random text message to the wrong person, then fate steps in. Over and over. Text messages get convoluted not just by mistaken identities but through misworded messages as well.

Things get incredibly complicated as Abby, the owner of a florist shop, tries to untangle her web of deception with Carter, a wonderful guy that she’s destined to deceive electronically and adore physically.


Carter Coben is having some serious communication problems lately. First he mouthed off to a project manager at work and got fired, now his girlfriend's dumped him and trashed his cell phone. About the only place he hasn't got his wires crossed these days is at the anonymous texting app, Carter thinks he might have found a real connection with “She Hearts Dogs,” but little does he know he's already quite acquainted with this cunning canine-lover . . .

When Abigail Jeffries gets a random text message from a stranger saying he's been dumped, she can't help but answer it—and recommend he send his ex some flowers from her new shop. When she delivers the bouquet though, she finds out his ex was cheating on him with his best friend—the same best friend she's impersonating via text! Abby feels guilty, but she can't help responding. But what will happen when Carter finds out that Abby is not only the face behind the texts, but the reason he got fired at work and his mysterious mutt-loving pal on

Will they ever manage to sort out their mixed signals, mistaken identities, and misunderstandings to find real love? This madcap, modern-day You've Got Mail for the texting generation will delight romantic comedy fans.


Shelley K. Wall

Shelley K. Wall was born near Kansas City, the middle daughter of three. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with additional post graduate work there and at the University of Wyoming extension in Casper. She also holds a length career in Information Technology.

Her first release, Numbers Never Lie, debuted in 2012 and was an Amazon Bestseller. Other titles include Bring It On(2012), The Designated Drivers’ Club(2012), Flood Flash and Pheromones(2013), Chloe’s Secret(2013), and her latest release Text Me.

Shelley enjoys writing characters that deal with drama in a humorous way, situations that are believable even if intense, heroes and heroines that aren’t perfect, and villains that may have an inkling of redemption hidden away.

Twitter: @skwallbooks

A text in the sand ...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

US Air Force's 67th Birthday with Ann DeFee

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame.
Hey! Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

Ann DeFee joins me today to celebrate the United State Air Force's 67th Birthday!  From her bio,

Ann DeFee is an award winning author who infuses humor into her stories of romance, small town quirkiness and family relationships. She's written eleven novels and one novella with the Harlequin American, Everlasting, and Carina Press lines and has twice been a Rita (Romance Writers' of America) finalist. She also won the RWA Orange County Book Buyers' Best Long Contemporary contest. As a fifth generation Texan, she frequently uses the Lone Star state for her settings. So if you're in the mood for a fun, fast-paced trip to Texas with sexy cowboy/cops and sassy heroines, check out Beyond Texas and A Hot Time In Texas.

Kim:  Thank you for your service as an Air Force spouse. Can you share a favorite place you lived and/or visited throughout your spouses' career?

Ann:  As an Air Force family, we had twenty-one moves in twenty-six years, and that included some really plum assignments: Seattle, Newport, R.I., San Antonio, Tampa, Fort Walton Beach, FL, Portsmouth, N.H. and England. Moving became second nature. No sooner had we organized the closets and hung the pictures than we were checking out schools and housing opportunities for our next assignment. I looked at every move as an exciting adventure–and except for one-place to remain unnamed–I wasn't disappointed. My kids were able to experience life in a way that molded them into wonderful adults. As for my favorite place, you'll probably be surprised to hear that it was Biloxi, Mississippi. Why Biloxi? A variety of reasons. We lived on the bay, blocks from the beach and we were only an hour from the French Quarter. But what I loved most was the joie de vivre (joy of life) exhibited by the people of Biloxi. They could make a party out of anything-fish fries, parades, picnics–everything was fair game for a good time. As for Mardi Gras–whoa! Life was a party, and that was particularly true of the six weeks prior to Lent. Most people associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans, but that's not completely accurate. Mobile, AL claims to be the ancestral home of Mardi Gras in America. All up and down the Gulf Coast, small towns revel in the fun of Fat Tuesday. Their joy's contagious. And for me, the devastation of Katrina was heartbreaking.

Beauvoir in Biloxi
Public Domain (link)

Kim:  What did you learn as an AF spouse that you could apply to your publishing career?

Ann:  Flexibility to adapt to any situation, including our wacky world of publishing.  Acceptance of new cultures, unfamiliar accents or languages, and a different way of doing things–all necessary for an author.  Living in a variety of different places provided a world of experiences to draw on for stories. Worldwide travel - there are so many places out in that big, wide, wonderful world to set a story. And seeing it up close and personal was invaluable.

Kim:  Being a military spouse is a challenging job - how have you balanced your role as spouse, volunteer, and writer?

Ann:  Multi-tasking is the hallmark of being a military spouse. Whether it's organizing an overseas move, or making sure the kids, hubby, cats, dogs–and in our case, horses–are all going in the right direction, the military spouse is central command. 

Kim:   I love the picture of the "future rodeo queen" on your website! 

Ann:  The future rodeo queen is my granddaughter.  Horses have been a part of our lives for a very long time. My uncle was a renowned saddle maker, providing saddles for celebrities and ranch hands. I went to my first rodeo before I could toddle. My daughter's love of horses was the impetus for our family's horse adventure. We started with a hoof pick and ended up with a truck, trailer, two horses, and all the baggage associated with the equine world. I've relinquished my active participation in the horse world, but my daughter had her kiddos on a pony by the time they were two-years old. Now they're American Vaulting Association (gymnastics on a moving horse) Grand Champions in their divisions.

Kim: Tell us about your books! 

Ann:  I've written eight novels and one novella for the Harlequin American Romance imprint. My first book, A Texas State of Mind (2005) was a double 2006 Rita finalist in both the Long Contemporary and Best First Book categories. My Everlasting work, Summer After Summer (2007 and re-issued in 2013) won the Orange County Book Buyers' Best Long Series Contemporary award. My latest books were with Carina Press. Beyond Texas came out in December, 2013, and A Hot Time In Texas debuted in July, 2014. I love stories about eccentric and funny characters. Most of my stories are set in Texas, although I have a Georgia series, and a New Hampshire novella. I love small towns, humor, irony and characters that make laugh.

Kim:  What's next for Ann DeFee?

Ann:  Exciting things. I have the rights back to my first three books, including the Rita finalist, and the repackaged versions will be out for pre-order in mid-October, with a debut date of early November. (I've attached the covers which are really cool).

Another project that's been taking a ton of my time is Bellastoria Press. Linda Cardillo (another Harlequin author) and I are partners in this business venture. Bellastoria is the Italian word for beautiful history. Our goal is to provide stories that nurture the soul from writers who amaze, entertain and provide a touchstone for the avid reader. We're currently working on a distribution process that will be a combination of digital and print, aiming at book clubs and indy bookstores. My women's fiction story, A Popsicle World, which will be a part of our launch campaign, will be available in October.

Mahalo, Ann, for sharing yoru wealth of experience!  I am giving away a digital copy of any title from Ann's booklist.  To enter the giveaway,

1.  What is the joie de vivre (joy of life) for you?  For me, it's volunteering with Scouts to help them develop into future leaders.

2.  Comments are open through Saturday, September 20, 10 pm in Baltimore.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, September 21.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Learn more about Ann and her books at

Laurel from Showtime Book Trailers created a special video for the USAF's birthday at this link.